This week’s reading, Participatory Culture, Community: Learning from Reddit by Adrienne Massanari, was particularly interesting to me. Having been an avid reddit user since about 2011/2012, just about every aspect of Reddit that the book explained was, for better or worse, familiar to me.
One thing I noticed about the book is that it explored the biggest, most popular subreddits. There is a multitude of smaller, niche subreddits that do not necessarily conform to the ways of the biggest subreddits. Additionally, there are plenty of large, female-dominated subreddits, such as r/makeupaddiction, r/redditlaqueristas, and r/babybumps. Also, there are more professional, useful subreddits such as r/Resumes that have stricter submission policies. The book seems to focus mostly on the biggest and/or most controversial subreddits, which of course would be easiest and most useful to study. But the author seems to paint a picture of extremes—as reddit being either wonderful or horrible.
Another point that I found interesting was the Martha Nussbaum’s (2010) identification of seven different ways that marginalized groups are objectified. When reading those, my mind instantly thought of a few subreddits that I have had the misfortune of stumbling upon: r/theredpill, r/MGTOW, and r/incels. The author mentions a few misogynistic subreddits, including the r/theredpill, but makes no mention of these other subreddits; I think they may not have existed at the time of the book’s publication. r/theredpill is basically an extremely misogynistic dating guide that essentially infantilizes all women and hits all seven of those points of objectification. r/MGTOW (“Men going their own way”) is (supposedly) a subreddit for men who are trying to better themselves without dating or being in a relationship, yet just about every single post is hatefully aimed towards women that, again, hits all of those seven points. r/Incels was, in my opinion, one of the worst subreddits. “Incel” stands for “involuntary celibate,” so the subreddit was full of self-hating, women-hating users who blamed women for their inability to find a relationship. The subreddit seemed genuinely harmful, as users supported and idolized people such as Elliot Rodgers, the mass shooter in the 2014 Isla Vista Killings who wrote a manifesto (particularly against women) and targeted women in the shooting. In his manifesto, Rodgers shows extreme animosity towards women for picking other men over him, and describes how he would attack couples in public out of sheer jealousy and spite. This sort of jealous, entitled attitude was reflected in the subreddit. Also, r/incels at times supported rape and violence towards women. The subreddit, “a breeding pool for serious and dangerous mental health issues,” as one user put it, was fortunately banned in November 2017 for advocating violence. A new website for incels spawned elsewhere, but at least it is off of Reddit where it can no longer be seen by younger redditors and give them a skewed perspective on women and relationships.
Despite its sometimes problematic community and toxic subreddits, Reddit can be a great resource. I frequent specific music subreddits to find recommendations for new music and keep up with new releases in certain genres. I enjoy listening to users music on r/composition and r/WeAreTheMusicMakers. The key to enjoying Reddit, in addition to steering clear of hateful and ignorant spaces, is finding what subreddits you like and have a good community and moderation, and knowing when to jump ship on subreddits that become toxic.