The current Reddit Inc. leadership seems to be hell-bent on prettifying the platform for either an IPO or a new owner. This news has even made it into mainstream media, so I won’t go into details of what’s happening, but rather give my perspective of what Reddit used to be for me, and what I intent to do now.
Many small homes
It’s not the first time that Reddit makes (negative) headlines either – in the last years several terrible, inhumane, and often right-wing subreddits have given the platform a bad name. Most of them were eventually closed by Reddit, but not before it was dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing.
But I still felt at home on Reddit. Because on the platform there wasn’t one community, but a collection of many different smaller communities, each with its own rules, culture, and quirks. Some of them terrible, sure, but if you found yours (which, thanks to Reddit’s subpar search, was not easy), you could have a great time there, while being largely insulated from the bad ones.
The old internet
Reddit also felt like part of the “old internet”. 1 Especially when you were using the original design under old.reddit.com and third-party mobile applications – little empty space, small font, no rounded corners.
The distinct cultures and (CSS-) styles of the different subreddit would remind me of the many forums – the ones that probably often got replaced by just those subreddits.
And while I would eventually recognize a handful of users who were very active in my go-to subreddits, I would rarely even read the usernames of posters or commenters. The content mattered, not the person. This would also be the case for moderators, who could mark their comments as “this comment I wrote with my mod-hat on” to indicate their status when it was necessary - otherwise they just be another unmarked username commenting. No profile pictures (at least for me), for the longest time no following-functionality for individual users, no requirement of attaching an email address to an account, and certainly no real name policy.
This made for interesting discussions, as it didn’t matter who you were discussing with. While of course everyone still wanted to get their point across, nobody tried to amass followers and “build their brand”, like it often happens on Twitter.
I also never had issues with any “power-hungry” mods. Quite the opposite, I would like to give a shout-out to the mods of /r/de for keeping this place sane also during crazier times, like the Syrian civil war and the resulting humanitarian crisis or the Covid-pandemic. 2
One for everything
On Reddit you could find a community about nearly everything.
- Creating art through procedural generation? /r/proceduralgeneration/ (they even had monthly challenges in the olden days! I got the “Jack-o-Lantern” flair for this)
- You like to watch dads happy-crying? /r/happycryingdads
- Videos of your favorite bands first gig? /r/preformances
- Want memes centered around members of the German parliament playing counter-strike? /r/csbundestag
- Need more incredibly cheesy Science Fiction book covers in your life? /r/badscificovers
One niche community I couldn’t find was one about my volunteering hobby: Maritime Search and Rescue. There was a subreddit for Search and Rescue, but it was largely about searching for lost hikers in mountainous terrain.
So I created /r/maritimeSAR in 2017. After 1 year it had 6 subscribers. After 2 years it had 50. In the end, it had 632 – mostly lurkers. But even though I was (nearly) the only person posting links to interesting videos and articles about mostly volunteer-based maritime search and rescue organizations, I did it gladly. I personally celebrated every single upvote. It wasn’t much, but it was honest work, all while the larger platform carried on and usually was out of the way. But that was about to change.
I didn’t give up just like that. I participated in the “subreddit blackout” from June 12th to 14th. But I wasn’t hopeful. We were merely guests on this platform. The only way to win was to be ready lose your community. And most redditors weren’t ready to do that.
Time to say goodbye?
But at least for my own subreddit, I didn’t feel good about posting new things anymore. I didn’t want to contribute to the bottom line of a company that has lost its way for free. Sure, the writing might have been on the wall for longer, and some might even say that it was silly to build a community on a closed platform from the start. But I felt for a long time that Reddit “was different”. Now it is different in that it follows the burning wreck that is Twitter more eagerly than any of the other closed platforms. wtf.
I won’t download reddits terrible mobile app. I might still browse through some non-yet-replaced subreddit from time to time using old.Reddit.com.
But I have already started a new community about maritime Search and Rescue on a lemmy instance. It’s small, I am the only one posting anything, but I am used to that.
It will be incredibly hard to rebuild all of these big and small communities elsewhere. But I was able to replace Twitter with Mastodon last year. Today I am only occasionally linked to Twitter by news articles or blog posts, and all my daily microblogging scrolling and posting happens on Mastodon.
So I hope that lemmy or kbin can help me miss Reddit less and less. But I am more sad than I was about Twitter going down the drain. I spent a lot of time on Reddit, and I learned many interesting and weird things, and generally had a lot of fun. Let’s see what the fediverse can do for me, and what I can do for the fediverse.