Anyone who is a constant user of Reddit has probably asked themselves the same question as I’m asking myself. Do I enjoy scrolling through endless Subreddits, or am I victim of the Internet version of Stockholm Syndrome?
Let me take this opportunity to coin the phrase “Reddit’s Razor”: Any subject you have an interest in has a Subreddit you can learn about in. Reddit acts as a great launching pad for any new obsession I come across. When I first decided to start learning German the /r/LanguageLearning and /r/German Subreddits were invaluable for finding German textbook resources and sorting through the plethora of apps and podcasts available on the subject. You are instantly surrounded by a group of like minded people who are experienced and willing to share their knowledge.
But therein lies the biggest problem when it comes to using Reddit as a learning tool. For those of us without the strongest of wills we can find ourself paralyzed by choice or, as in my case, spending much more time reading through threads about learning a subject rather than learning the subject. Once I realized this, I took the textbook recommendations Reddit gave me and avoided the site itself. My productivity shot way up.
Overall Reddit has been an excellent resource for resources, so to speak. The problem we run into is the constant post turnover often means there is not enough time to delve deep into a subject.
Perspective and Empathy
Subreddits such as /r/IAmA (read as “I am a…”) give great insight into the lives of people you otherwise wouldn’t interact with. Reading the thoughts and experiences of passionate people can open your world to concepts and ideas you would have never considered otherwise – or, you can kill some time learning about the world of elevator repairs.
As a general rule Reddit has a left leaning bias. For anyone who has spent time digging past the front page knows that this is far from the only truth. Reading through the Subreddit of my home country, /r/Canada, constantly reminds me that there is a world outside of my large city life surrounded by like-minded people. There are people who share radically different views than I do, many of which I have never encountered in real life. I am often disappointed at the vitriol and lack of empathy for other people some of my fellow Canadians have – it is a good reminder that there is still work to do.
I’m on the fence about whether Reddit has made me a more “wordly” person. I can say it has allowed me to learn about the arguments people make to support some less than mainstream opinions, whether they are valid is left as an exercise to the reader.
Time Well(?) Spent
Reddit has absolutely made me better at Jeopardy. The random facts of /r/TodayILearned (“TIL”) touch on any and every subject imaginable. It would be a struggle for me to argue that this knowledge has ever resulted in a positive external impact on my life. Sure, there have been instances where I’ve been able to make small talk based on something I read on Reddit, but are those fleeting moments really worth the hours I spent scrolling through useless memes?
Not everything one does must be productive. We are allowed to enjoy ourselves sometime, otherwise, what’s the point? I question however if I actually enjoy my time on Reddit. Stop me if you’ve been in this scenario – You’ve scrolled through all the posts on your Reddit front page, close the browser tab and reflexively CTRL + T a new tab before typing in “reddit.com/r/all” into the address bar. This habit should be at least a little concerning.
How often do you find yourself thinking “I would love to read that new book/play that new video game/bake a cake but I just don’t have the time!” – for me it’s quite often. Yet the amount of time I spend aimlessly scrolling through Reddit posts per day would absolutely allow me to complete these other “fun” activities. For this reason I can with little doubt say that in the aggregate my time spent on Reddit is a negative.
We all have out vices. There are worse things that a person could be addicted to than memes and cat pictures. However, some self control may be a good idea. If you’re like me and find yourself saying “I can’t remember what I did on the internet before Reddit!”, maybe it’s time to crack open that book you’ve been wanting to read far away from any phone or computer.