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r/DearAbby: The Website Reddit Has Changed How People Ask for Advice
Unlike Twitter or LinkedIn, Reddit seems to have a steeper learning curve for new users, especially for those users who fall outside of the Millennial and Gen-Z cohorts. But even though it may not be as ubiquitous across generations as, say, Facebook, Reddit is still the seventh most-visited site in the United States — and it ranks 19th most-visited worldwide, according to a survey conducted by Alexa Internet in September 2021.
Founded in 2005 by then-University of Virginia students Alexis Ohanian (Serena Williams’ husband) and Steve Huffman, Reddit is a multipurpose website dealing in social news aggregation, web content rating and user discussion. Essentially, users (dubbed “Redditors”) create member profiles — normally kept anonymous via chat room-esque usernames — and submit content to the site, including images, text posts, links, videos and memes.
These posts are organized into user-generated boards called “subreddits,” and, much like virtual folders in a virtual filing cabinet, these subreddits allow users to easily access content themed around specific topics. Looking for content about your favorite HBO series? Try the Game of Thrones subreddit, stylized as r/gameofthrones to reflect the way each subreddit’s name appears in part of its URL. Not your style? Maybe fitness topics appeal and you should check out r/fitness. Want to look at pictures of gorgeous homes from around the world? Head on over to r/cozyplaces .
That’s to say, there’s a subreddit for virtually every topic — or you can create one if it doesn’t already exist. Once users add content to a subreddit, these posts can either be “upvoted” or “downvoted” by other members. The more thumbs ups a post gets, the closer to the top of the subreddit’s page it’ll be, which means it’ll likely get more views. If a post is upvoted enough, it can appear on the site’s homepage, where it’ll get the most eyeballs on it.
What Is the r/Relationships Subreddit?
Like other user-focused sites, a post’s Reddit success hinges on popularity. But even the site’s founders didn’t quite realize just how popular their platform would become. In 2006, when they were in their early 20s, Ohanian and Huffman sold the site to Condé Nast Publications for somewhere between $10 million and $20 million.
While that may sound like a cushy payout, the so-called “front page of the internet” grew to be valued at $1.8 billion over the next decade and was backed by investors like rapper-turned-entrepreneur Snoop Dogg and Mosaic web browser co-author Marc Andreessen. As of December 2021, the company’s valuation climbed to $10 billion after filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Needless to say, Reddit is both popular and valuable. But the site has also reshaped the way users interact with one another, a fact that’s perhaps best seen in the growth of the r/relationships subreddit. With 3.2 million members, r/relationships bills itself as “a community built around helping people and the goal of providing a platform for interpersonal relationship advice between Redditors. We seek posts from users who have specific and personal relationship quandaries that other Redditors can help them try to solve.”
Although the bulk of the posts center on romantic relationships, the questions posed by Redditors can really run the gamut from familial problems and platonic quandaries to queries regarding the identity of the poster themselves. Some examples include : “I (28 F[emale]) feel a bit guilty that I am spending Christmas with my partner (26 M[ale]) instead of my family;” “I (20 M[ale], bisexual) am uncomfortable coming out to my girlfriend (19 F[emale]);” “I (22 F[emale]) can’t tell if I’m being emotionally/mentally abused by my parents or if they’re actually right;” and “When my partner says ‘You make me happy’ it makes me uncomfortable.” Following these succinct headlines, Redditors include outlines of what’s happening in their situations and ask fellow users for advice.
r/Relationships Becomes the Internet’s “Dear Abby”
Of course, when you think of comments sections, you’re probably wary: On most sites, the comments are a minefield — populated by “trolls” and overrun with toxicity. So much so that some sites disable comments altogether. And it’s true: Reddit isn’t immune to vitriol either and has certainly made headlines for the abusive, bigoted things members have said to one another.
But, perhaps surprisingly, moderators — and the shared mission statement that unites the subreddit’s nearly 3.2 million members — have made a relatively safe space out of r/relationships. A space in which folks feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with strangers.
Even though handles on Reddit tend to be fairly anonymous, many posters in r/relationships tend to create “throwaway accounts,” or accounts made for the sole purpose of asking these complicated questions and posting these rather intimate thoughts. Surely, the anonymity has a lot to do with why vulnerability in r/relationships feels okay, but the quality of the advice — not to mention the resources redditors share with one another — is also shockingly thoughtful and deep.
Unlike the advice columns of yesteryear — like Dear Abby or Miss Manners — there isn’t one be-all, end-all expert doling out advice. This crowdsourcing allows Redditors to connect with others over anger, heartbreak and confusion. If someone needs peace of mind or to be pulled out of a situation they’re struggling with, the internet’s unofficial sounding board offers a hand.
There’s no doubt that some folks lurk on the subreddit without writing a single word. Instead, these lurkers gawk at the posts — maybe out of some need for escapism from their own lives, or maybe just because schadenfreude is something humans can’t help but revel in. Regardless of this voyeuristic component, r/relationships illustrates how we can use the internet to step outside our own perspectives — to understand ourselves and the things that limit us — and make impactful human connections. And that deserves an upvote.
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It Happened Online
What’s going on with reddit.
Thousands of subreddits have gone dark in protest.
By Madison Malone Kircher
If you tried to find information on Reddit over the last week, you might have had a hard time.
Thousands of subreddits — the individualized communities where people discuss dog breeds, allergies, influencers, dating, and extremely NSFW topics — have gone dark in protest of some recent changes to Reddit’s business model.
The platform recently announced it would begin charging other companies that want to access its content using an API (Application Programming Interface). Reddit announced the changes earlier this spring after the rise of generative artificial intelligence companies like OpenAI, which used Reddit’s rich trove of human conversations to train ChatGPT for free.
It wasn’t just about A.I.
Reddit’s own app is considered by many to be garbage , but there are a number of third-party apps like Apollo that make browsing more enjoyable. Up until now, those apps could access Reddit’s data for free. Once Reddit starts charging at the end of the month, Apollo has said it will close down rather than pay an estimated bill of $20 million per year.
Reddit has long been bolstered and operated by a network of unpaid moderators who keep subreddits from disintegrating into chaos. The API fee became a tipping point for those superusers, who are worried that the company is prioritizing its business over the needs and preferences of the community. Reddit’s chief executive has explicitly said he is looking into ways of weakening moderator’s power .
Many of the subreddits that went dark in protest — though notably not all — are now back online. The question that remains is what this will mean for the platform going forward.
The thing is, Redditors really love Reddit. That’s in stark contrast to platforms like TikTok, where the predominant ethos is figuring out how to harness the platform for personal profit. Redditors invest time and care into their specific communities and are quick to protect them from outside invasion. They are what makes the best parts of Reddit work.
As with all things online, Reddit has had no shortage of hatred and garbage . But if we’re talking about the ideal Reddit — the many, many subs where people come together in good faith to discuss the genuine, the scary, the supernatural and the gross — these new changes to the platform stand to ruin the very thing that ever made the platform good.
Earlier this week, Alex Pareene over at Defector wrote: “We are living through the end of the useful internet. The future is informed discussion behind locked doors, in Discords and private fora, with the public-facing web increasingly filled with detritus generated by LLMs , bearing only a stylistic resemblance to useful information.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about that.
Ultimately, Reddit needs Redditors more than Redditors need Reddit. If forced, Redditors will simply find new places and ways to ask strangers, “ Am I The Asshole ?”
‘I’d like to buy a placenta,’ and other autocorrect fails
There’s lots going on in the world right now. I don’t know about you but I really found myself over the last week in need of a good, dumb giggle. Fortunately, you guys came through when I asked for your best stories about autocorrect failures .
Your responses were so great it seemed unfair to keep them locked away in my inbox. A special shoutout to the poor readers with autocorrectable names. Marijo said they are frequently renamed “Marijuana,” and Annick said their name becomes “Annoying.” (Which is, well, annoying!)
Today we’re going to play a little game here on I.H.O. Below are seven examples of autocorrect gone awry. Try to guess what the person was trying to type. Answers and context are below.
1. Hope your day is as sexual as you are!
2. i’d like to buy a placenta., 3. polk, polk, 4. hey, moron., 5. love, making., 6. run d.m.c., 7. nudie ranch., the ducking answers.
How’d you fare with your guesses?
Joyce was just trying to wish her son’s girlfriend — who she thinks is special, not sexual, to be very clear — a happy birthday.
Jennifer’s job as a buyer for a department store entailed ordering products like placemats. Which are not to be confused with placentas.
Gillian was trying to type the word poke. “Why does it assume I would message so frequently about obscure American presidents ?!”
Another name goof from Lisa, whose friend Maureen fortunately had a good sense of humor about the error.
This was Ellen’s attempts to text her kids “Love, Mom.”
Perhaps the strangest of the bunch, Deb was simply trying to type “Thanks.” Deb said: “Something about the inclusion of the period after the word ‘thanks’ seemed to trigger my phone’s innermost old-school hip-hop fan.”
Lisa’s phone was determined to foil her attempts to discuss the nudibranch , a colorful, shell-less snail.
Here’s what else is happening online this week.
An egg bagel saga captivated TikTok.
The Titanic Truthers of TikTok .
Celebrities said what ? Lip readers can tell you.
Meet the “ Dadfluencers .”
MSCHF’s latest virality bait .
Try this summer work hack and let us know how it goes.
The most satisfying tweet of the week .
Have feedback? Send me a note at [email protected] .
You can also follow me on Twitter ( @4evrmalone ).
Callie Holtermann contributed reporting to this newsletter.
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