A beginner’s guide to Reddit

In theory, Reddit is a place where internet news is shared, but increasingly it’s the place where it’s also born. Reddit is the insider’s social network, for people who want to debate, discuss and read about the news before it surfaces elsewhere. It’s so popular that it raised a staggering $200 million investment in 2017 giving it a valuation in the region of $1.8 billion and is spending the money on a redesign to make it look more like Facebook. 

A beginner’s guide to Reddit

Here’s a beginner’s guide to Reddit to get you started.

What is Reddit?

Reddit is the front page of the internet, where everything surfaces. That funny video that’s doing the rounds on Twitter? It was probably on Reddit 48 hours ago.

That’s probably not a hugely helpful description, but it helps explain some of the appeal. It’s one of the biggest communities on the internet, but it’s not like a normal social media site because content – links and text posts – are constantly voted upon by the community. The good stuff rises to the front page, the bad stuff gets ignored.

The site is divided into different topic boards, called ‘subreddits’. Each is themed around a different interest or idea. Reddit itself realises how complex the site can feel at first glance and has a subreddit dedicated to answering your questions. It’s called r/NoStupidQuestions,

Enjoying Reddit casually

With that in mind, it’s quite possible to enjoy Reddit passively. If you’re not logged in, or you haven’t tinkered with the settings, visiting Reddit.com will present you with the most popular, upvoted content on the site. This tends to be limited to certain popular subreddits, which everyone is subscribed to automatically. The includes the likes of /r/movies, /r/ShowerThoughts, /r/Jokes, etc.

The front page is a digest of the most popular content from each of the subreddits the site automatically opts you in for. Click through to each one, and you’ll see a lot more stuff which didn’t quite make the big leagues. Getting to the front page and the resulting traffic that generates has been known to take down ill-prepared websites, as they struggle under the strain.reddit_logo_how_to_use_reddit

Plough through a few of these and you’re bound to find some stuff to your liking, and this is a perfectly valid – if a touch superficial – Reddit experience. You can unsubscribe from the ones that don’t tickle you – I got rid of Jokes pretty quickly, because none of them are funny – and your front page will surface plenty of interesting stuff, much of it days before it mysteriously appears on sites around the web.

Picking your subreddits

The thing is that the automatic subscriptions only apply to the most popular subreddits around, and that’s scratching the surface. At the time of writing, there are 1,209,754 subreddits, according to RedditMetrics. And it’s rising all the time.

Not all of these will be of interest, of course, but plenty will. Basically, if you can think of a topic, there will be a subreddit for it, no matter how obscure. Finding them is the tricky bit. Searching for your interests is one way to do it, using the handy search bar at the top of the site, but it’s actually not a bad idea just to scroll backwards through the most popular subreddits, hitting the subscribe button on any which sounds appealing – unsubscribing is just as easy should you find it’s not to your tastes.

A couple I’m particularly fond of: /r/nottheonion picks out crazy sounding news stories that are actually true. /r/dataisbeautiful is packed with stats, graphs and other wonders. /r/explainlikeimfive takes complex ideas and explains them in a way a five-year-old could understand (in theory).

Reddit: Upvoting and downvoting

Next to every article is an up arrow and a down arrow. If an article gets enough upvotes – usually around the thousands mark – a piece will hit the front page, even if it’s not in the default subscription list. Naturally though, pieces stand a far better chance of reaching the front page if they are in the default list, as there are more people to vote for them.how_to_use_reddit

Each downvote takes away an upvote, so it’s a good, old fashioned popularity contest. The same goes for comments on articles. Upvoted comments will be displayed immediately after the article, and ignored comments are relegated to the bottom.

Some types of content on Reddit are specifically designed for the comments, rather than as an external link. ‘Ask Me Anything’ – AMAs – are opportunities for the community to ask questions to celebrities and notable figures. Some of them set the news of the day, while others go horribly, but in theory you have the option of asking anything you like: “would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses” is a popular one that even Barack Obama has answered.

Since most of the subreddits are themed on certain topics, such as /r/elderscrolls or /r/IASIP, these subreddits will almost exclusively be threads that discuss opinions, thoughts and ideas, without links to external content.

Images: Eva Blue, Eva Blue, Torley used under Creative Commons 

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