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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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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

Zillow launches real estate brokerage after eons of swearing they wouldn’t

(MEDIA) We’ve warned of this for years, the industry funded it, and Zillow Homes brokerage has launched, and there are serious questions at hand.

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Zillow Homes was announced today, a Zillow licensed brokerage that will be fully operational in 2021 in Phoenix, Tucson, and Atlanta.

Whoa, big huge yawn-inducing shocker, y’all.

We’ve been warning for more than a decade that this was the end game, and the company blackballed us for our screams (and other criticisms, despite praise when merited here and there).

Blog posts were penned in fiery effigy calling naysayers like us stupid and paranoid.

Well color me unsurprised that the clarity of the gameplan was clear as day all along over here, and the paid talking heads sent out to astroturf, gaslight, and threaten us are now all quiet.

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Social Media

We watched The Social Dilemma – here are some social media tips that stuck with us

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Here are some takeaways from watching Netflix’s The Social Dilemma that helped me to eliminate some social media burnout.

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Last weekend, I made the risky decision to watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I knew it was an important thing to watch, but the risk was that I also knew it would wig me out a bit. As much as I’m someone who is active “online,” the concept of social media overwhelms me almost more than it entertains (or enlightens) me.

The constant sharing of information, the accessibility to information, and the endless barrage of notifications are just a few of the ways social media can cause overwhelm. The documentary went in deeper than this surface-level content and got into the nitty gritty of how people behind the scenes use your data and track your usage.

Former employees of high-profile platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and Pinterest gave their two cents on the dangers of social media from a technological standpoint. Basically, our data isn’t just being tracked to be passed along for newsletters and the like. But rather, humans are seen as products that are manipulated to buy and click all day every day in order to make others money and perpetuate information that has astronomical effects. (I’m not nearly as intelligent as these people, so watch the documentary to get the in-depth look at how all of this operates.)

One of the major elements that stuck with me was the end credits of The Social Dilemma where they asked interviewees about the ways they are working to eliminate social media overwhelm in their own lives. Some of these I’ve implemented myself and can attest to. Here’s a short list of things you can do to keep from burning out online.

  1. Turn off notifications – unless there are things you need to know about immediately (texts, emails, etc.) turn it off. Getting 100 individual notifications within an hour from those who liked your Instagram post will do nothing but burn you (and your battery) out.
  2. Know how to use these technologies to change the conversation and not perpetuate things like “fake news” and clickbait.
  3. Uninstall apps that are wasting your time. If you feel yourself wasting hours per week mindlessly scrolling through Facebook but not actually using it, consider deleting the app and only checking the site from a desktop or Internet browser.
  4. Research and consider using other search tools instead of Google (one interviewee mentioned that Qwant specifically does not collect/store your information the way Google does).
  5. Don’t perpetuate by watching recommended videos on YouTube, those are tailored to try and sway or sell you things. Pick your own content.
  6. Research the many extensions that remove these recommendations and help stop the collection of your data.

At the end of the day, just be mindful of how you’re using social media and what you’re sharing – not just about yourself, but the information you’re passing along from and to others. Do your part to make sure what you are sharing is accurate and useful in this conversation.

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Social Media

WeChat ban blocked by California judge, but for how long?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) WeChat is protected by First Amendment concerns for now, but it’s unclear how long the app will remain as pressure mounts.

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WeChat barely avoided a US ban after a Californian judge stepped in to temporarily block President Trump’s executive order. Judge Laurel Beeler cited the effects of the ban on US-based WeChat users and how it threatened the First Amendment rights of those users.

“The plaintiffs’ evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat,” Beeler wrote.

WeChat is a Chinese instant messaging and social media/mobile transaction app with over 1 billion active monthly users. The WeChat Alliance, a group of users who filed the lawsuit in August, pointed out that the ban unfairly targets Chinese-Americans as it’s the primary app used by the demographic to communicate with loved ones, engage in political discussions, and receive news.

The app, along with TikTok, has come under fire as a means for China to collect data on its users. U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stated, “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

This example is yet another symptom of our ever-globalizing society where we are learning to navigate between connectivity and privacy. The plaintiffs also pointed out alternatives to an outright ban. One example cited was in Australia, where WeChat is now banned from government officials’ phones but not others.

Beeler has said that the range in alternatives to preserving national security affected her decision to strike down the ban. She also explained that in regards to dealing with national security, there is “scant little evidence that (the Commerce Department’s) effective ban of WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns.”

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