Goodbye Reddit: A Postmortem


Just insanely dumb take after insanely dumb take. This website is populated by the worst sorts of dullards.


A decade.

I made my first Reddit account in the eighth grade. I -think- my first cakeday was Halloween 2011, but I can't prove it anymore--that account no longer exists. Since that first day, there's probably been about two or three days where one of my devices hasn't hit the frontpage. Reddit was one of the few true constants of my adolescence.

And I'm frankly quite sick of it.

There's a community on Reddit that I'm peripherally aware of--/r/nosurf--whose users aim to use the internet as a tool rather than the time-sucking alternate dimension it's become for a lot of people. I appreciate their stance, but they're just too much. I don't consider my other internet usage as much of a problem; I mainly watch educational Youtube videos, read the news, and spend a bit of time watching some streamers I like. It's only ever been Reddit that I can't handle. At this point, Reddit is just too much for me.

Why'd I quit?

Reddit's way of facilitating conversation is fundamentally skewed towards a 50% + 1 viewpoint.

This is a bit obvious, but Reddit is not a good forum for actual discussion. People upvote what they agree with and downvote what they disagree with. They're not supposed to downvote like that per Reddiquette, but no one's paid attention to Reddiquette since...well, probably when I joined. Even the most heavily moderated and curated subreddits fall victim to the "I don't like this post and/or comment so I will prevent others from having to look at it" downvote. This naturally leads to predominant viewpoints taking shape on individual threads and eventually subreddits as the dissenters give up posting in these spaces.

To illustrate, imagine a small subreddit for chapstick connoisseurs. There are 20 people that frequent it and regularly participate in threads. 11 believe that cherry chapstick is the superior flavor; 9 believe spearmint is superior. Even though that's near-perfectly split, the cherry supremacists have an extra upvote to go around, assuming that they all upvote each other's cherry propaganda and either ignore or downvote the spearmint faction. If every user in the subreddit participates fully in each thread, those 11 cherry comments will be upvoted to the top without fail (ignoring any vote fuzzing on Reddit's part; in a non-contrived example, the vote fuzzing wouldn't be a big enough factor to matter much.) The spearmint comments will have to live at the bottom of every thread and might even be below the downvote threshold to be shown. Any new user will see the cherry comments at the top every time, perhaps never even seeing the spearmint ones, and may be led to believe in cherry supremacy themselves.

So, you get the hivemind: the illusion of a widely-held opinion because a few more people hold it. It'll eventually turn into a true widely-held opinion among the space's users as dissenters leave, get banned, or continue to be drowned out. The hivemindification of subreddits pulls them further and further into singular directions, which leads to:

Reddit is an extremist breeding ground.

Won't go too much into this one--there's plenty of good discussions about this front from people who have thought about this much more than I have--but the number of times I've seen an off-color comment from a user, gone into their posting history, and discovered they're some far-right jackass is staggering. Once you've gone from disagreeing with someone's Smash tier list to realizing they're a fascist a dozen or so times, you start to get uneasy about spending much more time on the same website as them. You start to wonder how they got to be that way and if it'll happen to you. Hell, you've already been infected in some other way without realizing, which is downright terrifying.

I couldn't tell you the name of it (I'll edit this if I can find it,) but there used to be a Firefox extension for Reddit that ran through users' post histories and tagged them via RES if they've ever posted to any extremist subreddits. The way big threads lit up like Christmas trees from /r/thedonald posters and /r/frenworld (ugh) weirdos was my first big step in cutting back on Reddit.

Reddit is just Youtube comments.

This was my most recent last straw with the site. Way, way back, before even "the narwhal bacons at midnight" phase of Reddit, there might've been a case for the quality of Reddit comments being higher than the average internet comment. The site specifically attracted the sort of awkward programmer that would've put effort into such a thing. Most communities on the site now are just too big and too broad to attract a bunch of people who would put care into creating text content for the masses; even on bigger discussion-based subs you get loads of bafflingly surface-level takes. Like, on /r/politicaldiscussion, which I used to frequent for some casual thoughts on the latest in the news: you get a monthly or so thread about "how do the Democrats get more voters," and without fail, the top comment will be from some late teen/early twenties guy about how they would never lose another election if they just stopped talking about guns. Ignore all the non late teen/early twenties guys who make up the party who would not quite appreciate that, or how a single issue doesn't really sway many people (they just say it does) and the number of people that vote based on whether a politician supports gun rights probably isn't large enough to win elections with, etc., etc.

Sorry, rambling. Point is, I've spent the past decades religiously reading the equivalent of Youtube comments and spent a big chunk of it convinced otherwise. The best discussion I've seen recently is in the circlejerk subs, which are primarily based on making fun of these surface-level takes from bigger subs. And, if the best discussion is coming from the people who are sick of most other people on the site, how much longer are they really going to stay to do that? They'll probably come to the same realization I've come to at some point.

God I miss focus

This is partially on me, partially on Reddit's design to constantly activate my mental reward system by endlessly scrolling through links. I feel like I haven't been focused in a long, long time, largely thanks to Reddit and other social media (aka Twitter.) My few unsuccessful stints with quitting Reddit have been met with an abundance of extra time to do stuff and greater ability to focus on it. Hopefully I'll be able to leverage that now that there's another Reddit-sized hole in my days.

How am I doing it this time around?

The biggest hurdle in quitting Reddit, and what's sucked me back in the past times I've tried, is that there's not a good substitute for some of the communities I follow. Particularly with competitive Smash, the only other places to keep up with the scene are through poring over Twitter, catching news from player streams, random Youtube videos, or, like, Smashboards I guess? Is that still a thing? None are as centralized as the community on Reddit, and completely quitting the site would mean just not being able to follow or participate in the scene nearly as well as I currently can.

That's why I threw together Reddit Lite with the .json links that Reddit provides on every sub (I'm not dedicated enough to go through and set up dev access to their api.) By pulling in the top links of the past day and checking in once a day or so, I get fundamentally the same news without the temptation of the big frontpage button looming over me. It's worked so far, especially coupled with deleting Apollo. Most instances of mindless scrolling have been avoided thus far, and there's no indication it'll come back anytime soon.

Reddit Lite has proved to me that I'm really not missing much from the scrolling. Whenever I check it--only a couple times a day thus far, in the morning and at night--there's been nothing important in the top posts. Just clips of people beating up kids who don't know how to play in /r/smashbros and the same old kinds of threads in /r/politicaldiscussion.