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The Hydra that beheads itself. Reddit has a self-consuming existence

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Reddit was supposed to be the land of free ideas, but someone noticed something strange. The question is, are they reading too much into it?

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Reddit website subreddits

The year is 2020 and the new generation has grown up with the internet. For the most part this has created immense potential for progress in the world. People who would have had to travel miles either on foot or car to learn something, can get it at their fingertips. They can speak with someone on the other side of the globe in real time. The possibilities are limitless on its applications for the human existence, but where brightness exists, we must also deal with the darkness.

Social Media, originally a means of reaching across distance to stay in touch, has turned into the yellow journalism of this era. From 45s inflammatory tweets, and the everyday machinations of children exploring the world online to worldwide news, the internet can do just about anything. But as we see with just about everything with people in general, when we get a shortcut for something, we tend to not follow everything we’ve learned up until that point. Communication skills and the niceties of human interaction are completely stripped bare when people get into heated conversations online. This can be seen playing out in its entirety on Reddit through the last few months.

There was a situation that went from a flashy headline to shaking the entire platform of the site. Just to make sure that everyone’s on the same page, I want to go over the breakdown of Reddit’s personnel structure. The paid people for Reddit are referred to as the Admins. They have one job, making sure the rules of Reddit are followed. These rules are short, simple, and really only apply to the content that is posted, with a few additional topics. The real heavy lifters for Reddit are the Moderators (Mods). What they do will become important to the story in a moment. The last level are the Users, which are just the everyday people who post whatever they want, (within the rules) and can comment on any of the subreddits that they are involved with.

So, as we look at the construction of Reddit, it’s just a website platform. They allow their Users to create boards, called subreddits, which are their own little worlds to control. When you create a subreddit, using any available name you want and defined by an r/, you instantly become the lead Mod on it, and can set whatever rules you want for it. If you want a column of posts that only has intense technical discussions on the physical mechanics of “My Little Pony”, you do you boo! If you can only handle memes of kittens in your online existence, then prepare for cuteness.

Now those rules I mentioned, don’t stop people from posting but it gives you the power to actually remove things from your subreddit if you choose to. To help you, because some of these subreddits reach tens of millions of individuals daily, you can add as many Moderators as you want to your subreddit. There have even developed, what can be best described as, professional moderators. Individuals who are working on so many different subreddits that their experience is seen as invaluable for someone wanting to keep a good handle on their little section of the internet.

On March 16th a Reddit user took it upon himself to compile a list of popular subreddits in a column, and then next to it a list of some of the moderators from each of those subreddits. He then decided to name the article “92 of top 500 subreddits are controlled by just 4 people”. Just another attempt at click bait to get his name getting karma points, points you earn from posts and comments from other users. However, while this was a heavily misleading post on a few points, it hit the website hard because of the implication of users being controlled by a small group of “tyrants”. As the weeks continued this same article was seen in a number of other Reddit-hating subreddits, yes you read that correctly i.e r/subredditcancer etc. It may have eventually fallen into anonymity, but it was kicked back into the spotlight again a few weeks later.

A well-known user submitted the post to three subreddits, whose combined overall subscribers numbered well above 8 million. At that point it went viral, becoming for a short time, the most popular post on Reddit. Then the moderators made a mistake, in my humble opinion, they removed that users post without an explanation, and then they were banned from one of the subreddits that they were part of but hadn’t been active in for a number of months. After that the snowball started going, one subreddit after another started banning the aforementioned user. On May 12th the user was finally suspended from Reddit altogether. While this was to hopefully stem the blood flow, it actually didn’t. Other users took up the ‘cause’.

A rhythm starts happening all over reddit. The list gets posted and then taken down. The moderators would either give no cause for the deletion, or actually just give a half-hearted effort. Communications between moderators seemed to reveal a movement to keep this post down because of the lengthy and uncivil arguments that it would invoke in the majority of the subreddits that it cropped up in. It came to a point when moderators started getting death threats from users, and the Administrators finally stepped in and put a stop to things.

This event put into stark contrast how situations were handled and some people are learning to adjust. While others are making a different decision. One of the original 5 mentioned moderators opted to delete his entire profile. This is a person who has been building their brand for nine years, and the amount of hatred and vitriol that he had to go through caused him to abandon hundreds if not thousands of hours of work. Sounds like a giant waste of an experienced person to me, and it’s a little sad.

This whole situation is very indicative of how people act on social media. Someone either wants fame, actually believes it, or just wants to cause chaos. They push a trumped up, poorly made article, which doesn’t explore all the information available, into the faces of the populace at large. It’s a preposterous notion for anyone who actually thinks this situation through, but no one actually cares about that description. They only pay attention to the headline and picture. If it holds up to a shred of sense, then they will run with it. Then when the moderators started deleting posts, they unintentionally made it more real. At that point it becomes what my generation affectionately calls, a “dumpster fire.”

I believe that experiences like this are what shoves people away from social media, and gives it a bad name. You have people who have forgotten all the decorum of talking to someone in person. They somehow believe that death threats are what’s required when they don’t get to post the picture of an image they want. The hope from me at least is that people start remembering that every user on the end of a post is also a person. That they have feelings, emotions, and desires just like they do.

I’m not holding my breath for large amounts of change anytime soon, particularly on social media, but I will continue to hope that the hundreds of years we’ve put into communicating with each other in person, from cave paintings to smoke signals, gets adapted to the online world.

Robert Raney is a geoscientist whose been writing and painting for years to get his creative fix in. While working on his thesis in theoretical planetary physics he was also creating fantastical worlds on paper for fun. He's an at home Texan Houstonite who currently works slinging drinks at a local LGBTQ+ bar in the gayborhood, when not fielding oil & gas jobs that have taken him around the world.

Social Media

Facebook releases Hotline as yet another Clubhouse competitor

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As yet another app emerges to try and take some of Clubhouse’s success, Facebook Hotline adds a slightly more formal video chat component to the game.

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Woman forming hands into heart shape at laptop hosting live video chat, similar to Facebook's new app Hotline

Facebook is at it again and launching its own version of another app. This time, the company has launched Hotline, which looks like a cross between Instagram Live and Clubhouse.

Facebook’s Hotline is the company’s attempt at competing with Clubhouse, the audio-based social media app, which was released on iOS in March 2020. Earlier this year, The New York Times reported Facebook had already begun working on building its own version of the app. Erik Hazzard, who joined Facebook in 2017 after the company acquired his tbh app, is leading the project.

The app was created by the New Product Experimentation (NPE) Team, Facebook’s experimental development division, and it’s already in beta testing online. To access it, you can use the web-based application through the platform’s website to join the waitlist and “Host a Show”. However, you will need to sign in using your Twitter account to do so.

Unlike Clubhouse, Hotline lets users also chat through video and not just audio alone. The product is more like a formal Q&A and recording platform. Its features allow people to live stream and hold Q&A sessions with their audiences similar to Instagram Live. And, audience members can ask questions by using text or audio.

Also, what makes Hotline a little more formal than Clubhouse is that it automatically records conversations. According to TechCrunch, hosts receive both a video and audio recording of the event. With a guaranteed recording feature, the Q&A sessions will stray away from the casual vibes of Clubhouse.

The first person to host a Q&A live stream on Hotline is real-estate investor Nick Huber, who is the type of “expert” Facebook is hoping to attract to its platform.

“With Hotline, we’re hoping to understand how interactive, live multimedia Q&As can help people learn from experts in areas like professional skills, just as it helps those experts build their businesses,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “New Product Experimentation has been testing multimedia products like CatchUp, Venue, Collab, and BARS, and we’re encouraged to see the formats continue to help people connect and build community,” the spokesperson added.

According to a Reuters article, the app doesn’t have any audience size limits, hosts can remove questions they don’t want to answer, and Facebook is moderating inappropriate content during its early days.

An app for mobile devices isn’t available yet, but if you want to check it out, you can visit Hotline’s website.

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Social Media

Brace yourselves: Facebook has re-opened political advertising space

(SOCIAL MEDIA) After a break due to misinformation in the past election, Facebook is once again allowing political advertising slots on their platform – with some caveats.

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Facebook open on phone in a wallet case, open for political advertising again.

After a months-long ban on political ads due to misinformation and other inappropriate behavior following the election in November, Facebook is planning to resume providing space for political advertising.

Starting on Thursday, March 4th, advertisers were able to buy spots for ads that comprise politics, what Facebook categorizes as “social issues”, and other potentially charged topics previously prohibited by the social media platform.

The history of the ban is complicated, and its existence was predicated on a profound distrust between political parties and mainstream news. In the wake of the 2016 election and illicit advertising activity that muddied the proverbial waters, Facebook had what some would view as a clear moral obligation to prevent similar sediment from clouding future elections.

Facebook delivered on that obligation by removing political advertising from their platform prior to Election Day, a decision that would stand fast in the tumultuous months to follow. And, while Facebook did temporarily suspend the ban in Georgia during the senate proceedings, political advertisements nevertheless remained absent from the platform in large until last week.

The removal of the ban does have some accompanying caveats—namely the identification process. Unlike before, advertisers will have to go to great lengths to confirm their identities prior to launching ads. Those ads will most likely also need to come from domestic agencies given Facebook’s diligent removal of foreign and malicious campaigns in the prior years.

The moral debate regarding social media advertising—particularly on Facebook—is a deeply nuanced and divided one. Some argue that, by removing political advertising across the board, Facebook has simply limited access for “good actors” and cleared the way for illegitimate claims.

Facebook’s response to this is simply that they didn’t understand fully the role ads would play in the electoral process, and that allowing those ads back will allow them to learn more going forward.

Either way, political advertising spots are now open on Facebook, and the overall public perception seems controversial enough to warrant keeping an eye on the progression of this decision. It wouldn’t be entirely unexpected for Facebook to revoke access to these advertisements again—or limit further their range and scope—in the coming months and years.

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Social Media

Twitter to start charging users? Here’s what you need to know

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media is trending toward the subscription based model, especially as the pandemic pushes ad revenue down. What does this mean for Twitter users?

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Twitter and other social media apps open on a phone being held in a hand. Will they go to a paid option subscription model?

In an attempt to become less dependent on advertising, Twitter Inc. announced that it will be considering developing a subscription product, as well as other paid options. Here’s the scoop:

  • The ideas for paid Twitter that are being tossed around include tipping creators, the ability to pay users you follow for exclusive content, charging for use of the TweetDeck, features like “undo send”, and profile customization options and more.
  • While Twitter has thought about moving towards paid for years, the pandemic has pushed them to do it – plus activist investors want to see accelerated growth.
  • The majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from targeted ads, though Twitter’s ad market is significantly smaller than Facebook and other competitors.
  • The platform’s user base in the U.S. is its most valuable market, and that market is plateauing – essentially, Twitter can’t depend on new American users joining to make money anymore.
  • The company tried user “tips” in the past with its live video service Periscope (RIP), which has now become a popular business model for other companies – and which we will most likely see again with paid Twitter.
  • And yes, they will ALWAYS take a cut of any money being poured into the app, no matter who it’s intended for.

This announcement comes at a time where other social media platforms, such as TikTok and Clubhouse, are also moving towards paid options.

My hot take: Is it important – especially during a pandemic – to make sure that creators are receiving fair compensation for the content that we as users consume? Yes, 100%. Pay people for their work. And in the realm of social media, pictures, memes, and opinions are in fact work. Don’t get it twisted.

Does this shift also symbolize a deviation from the unpaid, egalitarian social media that we’ve all learned to use, consume, and love over the last decade? It sure does.

My irritation stems not from the fact that creators will probably see more return on their work in the future. Or on the principal of free social media for all. It stems from sheer greediness of the social media giants. Facebook, Twitter, and their counterparts are already filthy rich. Like, dumb rich. And guess what: Even though Twitter has been free so far, it’s creators and users alike that have been generating wealth for the company.

So why do they want even more now?

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