In defense of Reddit

It’s often difficult for a Reddit user to describe the “front page of the Internet” to people who haven’t spent significant time interacting with the website. The inability to explain Reddit in one or two sentences allows the uninitiated to define the website in the terms they understand, which is often the controversies reported on the news or other corners of the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are known entities even to infrequent users, which allows them to be judged as a whole and not defined by their most prominent blemishes.

There are also very dark places on Twitter and Facebook where users bully, spread messages of hate, and commit or attempt to commit crimes. These are a few unfortunate side effects that have resulted from two very important pillars of American life: the 1st Amendment and the Internet. Hatred and filth are a small part of human nature, and they will always exist online.

My Grandma — the antithesis of hatred and filth — is on Facebook. She could easily be on Reddit too, subscribing to pages dedicated to adorable pets, colorizing old black and white photos, photo editing contests, books, and marijuana — you know, in case she needs to alleviate some of the ailments of old age. I did not list subreddits for baking and sewing, both of which are excellent and wholesome communities, because my grandma is a modern woman and won’t conform to your stereotypes.

My grandma could have a Reddit account that subscribes to only those pages, if that is what she wanted. She would never see any of the hateful content of the Donald Trump subreddit cesspool, or leaks of celebrity nudes, or one of the many pages where misogynists gather to echo their misguided opinions. These pages are terrible places filled with reprehensible people, but that same content can be found on any other social media site.

In some ways, Reddit exceeds those other social media experiences. Posts and comments are scored by “up” and “down” votes of users, which means that the most vile and hateful stuff gets buried in your news feed, unless of course you are seeking that out.

Reddit can and should do more to prevent some of the worst behavior. It is an amazing place full of bright and thoughtful people — Bill Gates is on there! — and maintaining that experience should be a priority. That is the most significant challenge for Facebook and Twitter, and it is no less important for Reddit. But first, it needs to be better understood.

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