Reddit gets a bad press, an unfairly bad press, and if you’ve never used it then you probably have a negative impression.
Over the years it’s been the online home of women-hating ‘Incels‘, distributor in the 2014 celebrity photo hack and host to countless echo chambers where the most bizarre, surreal conspiracy theories take hold and come to be treated as fact; theories like gangstalking, discussed in last week’s dispatch, and Pizzagate, of which I don’t feel ready to attempt an accurate description.
But, gentle reader, this website is not all sex-starved young men and raging conspiracy nuts. Its anarchic community is also a massive source of insight, knowledge, joy, and inspiration. I will prove it.
If you don’t know, Reddit is basically a jumped-up version of one of those old forums you find whenever you Google a solution to a computer problem. There is Reddit, the host, with a home feed aesthetically similar to Facebook’s, and then a bunch of subreddits, or ‘communities’; basically sub-forums which exist independently of each other under Reddit’s gargantuan umbrella. If you subscribe to one, new posts on them will appear on your home page.
The last time someone bothered to count, there were 1.2 million subreddits, all serving their own community, all governed by their particular sets of rules and in-jokes, and each dedicated to a certain thing; ranging from the straight-up helpful, to the funny, to the extremely disturbing.
Today I will discuss some of my
Proof that there are intelligent people somewhere, r/askhistorians is a place to ask experts about things such as how Indian cuisine tasted before chilis were introduced in the 17th century and what happened to the Roman aristocracy after the fall of the Western Empire in 476. The community encourages answers to be evidence-based and backed-up by sources. There are a series of other ask-type communities, like r/IWantToLearn, r/AskPhotography, r/askscience, r/AskWomen and r/AskReddit which work in a similar way.
A many-years-old collaborative story about the daily life of a fictional man called Norman, started by Cameron Crane while he was sitting on the toilet. Anyone can contribute to the story by posting on the subreddit. Norman tends to live a quiet life – getting caught in the rain, holding the door open for someone, writing an email… But there is a kind of, um, I don’t know, beauty in it. The contributors know the character they’re writing about and figure out ways to add depth to the vignettes without upsetting the essential boredom and reticence of Norman’s life. In a New Year’s post by Crane himself, Norman notices that he has put on weight and his hairline is retreating but reminds himself that at least his cat is in good health and there’s money in the bank. Last year, Crane released a book of Norman stories taken from the subreddit, with the profits going to cat shelters.
Another creative subreddit, users post interesting photos and challenge those skilled at using Photoshop to make something out of them. For example, this photo of Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister playing Overwatch is turned into the Deputy Prime Minister smuggling guns through a rain-soaked landscape.
The funniest community on Reddit is based around a very simple idea: taking videos of Good Samaritans rescuing distressed animals and reversing them so that it looks like they are placing birds in drainpipes, dogs in rivers, and cats up trees. The titles are then changed to things like ‘Evil Man Leaves Dog to Drown in Flood’. Extremely funny and arguably guilt-free.
One of the strangest communities on Reddit is dedicated to discussing a Korean woman who believes she has an electronic chip in her foot which a policeman called P uses to control her mind. Fearing that P will enter her home, she streams her life 24 hours a day on the internet– presumably so she can prove it when he does – and spends most of the time sleeping in her chair surrounded by scrawled messages about mind control. Despite the mildly racist nickname (‘Chan’ being Chinese rather than Korean, apart from anything else) the posts of redditors who watch over her mainly involve concern for her wellbeing and speculation about how she got to where she is. This has been going on for over 10 years. Despite that, nobody seems to be in possession of concrete facts. Her life remains a mystery.
Do you need a description? Interesting and passionate discussions about books, from debate over the best English translation of Don Quixote (John Phillips’s is ‘a literal piece of shit’ apparently) to analysis of Stephen King’s The Stand.
#1 for heartwarming yet unsentimental depictions of agricultural life from those who know how it feels to both care for an animal and slaughter one, r/homestead is home to posts from farmers and outdoors people from Wisconsin to Wiltshire. Tutorials on how to build chicken coops, videos of games of tag with Tamworth pigs, pleas for advice on tillage, gloating reports on the previous night’s home-reared roast chicken or wild moose stew, pictures of tractors, farm cats, farm dogs, pregnant rabbits, goats standing where they shouldn’t and the occasional tranquil, misty morning. This subreddit celebrates a lifestyle which is as beautiful as it is hard.
Also good, though not worth writing about this time:
Oh, you’re probably wondering why my writing has seemed so sensual and well cadenced this week – it’s because I was listening to this fantastic mix of Brazilian soul, funk and jazz while crafting it.
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