Taking only 12 credits this semester — only one of which has mandatory attendance — means that I have more free time than ever. So now, in my blocks of time that even the world’s longest and most hangover-induced naps cannot fill, I actually need stuff to do. Oh, and by the way, “stuff” precludes anything active, academic, challenging or generally healthy for my physique or psyche.
On one particularly empty Monday, I had just finished the last Parks & Recreation episode on Netflix, none of my roommates were home and I didn’t have any snack food. I was lost, alone and out of pita chips. And then I discovered Reddit.
I know I’m not introducing the world to a hidden gem, because I realize that Reddit is an already-mined, bountiful and beautiful quarry. Rather, I want to share my experience of enlightenment. This is like my Siddhartha; my Eat, Pray, Love; or perhaps my Dear God, It’s Me Margaret. No, actually, it is my “IAmA” girl infatuated with Reddit.
For those of you unfamiliar with the site and confused as to how anyone can profess such emphatic love for a URL, Reddit basically houses user-generated content that’s listed according to voter popularity, within various subreddits, where posts are submitted about some overarching theme or cause. This might sound dense or wholly unoriginal, but the catch, for me at least, involves Reddit’s engaging, idiosyncratic subreddits.
The subreddit “AskReddit” currently dominates my coveted online reading of the week. It is defined as a place “for thought-provoking, discussion-inspiring questions.” According to this description, I have decided that reading AskReddit amounts to attending weekly class discussion sections. Questions range from the practical — “What is something you think everyone should have installed on their computer or laptop?” — to the downright salacious — “Most embarrassing situation you’ve been in? (Story inside, doubt anyone can top it.)” — and even the scientific, “I like big butts and I cannot lie, but is there some evolutionary reason as to why this is?” Surfing around AskReddit for five minutes will answer all the questions you never knew you had, it will give you enough movie suggestions for a lifetime, and will put your craziest Friday nights to shame. Reddit, in this sense, really acts like a community.
It’s a frightening thought, but I think I could subsist on nothing but Reddit for months. I could engage in conversation, leave passive aggressive notes, express my opinions, laugh, cry and meet like-minded individuals. Reddit exists as an online Academical Village — which should come as no surprise, considering its founder is a Wahoo — in which anyone can enroll. If the existence of this sort of online community is any indication, the impending fusion of the Internet and life might have already occurred.
Most of us non-HTML coders live in fear of this moment, insistent that our children will not have cell phones before they’re married. But have we already moved beyond a point of return on the distinction between reality and virtual life? This argument, like my discovery of Reddit, is neither new nor sensational. But it might be acceptable for “r/thoughts.”
Elizabeth’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org