Oh, Reddit. It’s the epitome of everything that went wrong with the way the internet was supposed to be. If you’ve never had a run-in with Reddit, consider yourself lucky. It’s incredibly ironic that the company was founded in Massachusetts, because while it was not founded in Salem exactly, it shares many characteristics of Salem, Massachusetts as the town existed in the 1600s, specifically, during the time of the Salem witch trials. Perhaps Massachusetts has always been home to those who wish to be around others of their ilk; that is, those with a puritanical mindset. Reddit proclaims itself to be a social news website, but contrary to the normal definition of “social,”- casual and relaxed- Reddit’s version of social is more like looking out your window and seeing a giant group of villagers at your door with pitchforks, enthusiastically waiting to see if you sink or float. Of course, either way, you lose. Here, let’s examine the top five ways in which Reddit is like Salem Massachusetts in the 1600s, or, more specifically, how the community of Reddit users are like the villagers in 1600s Salem:
There is a strict set of rules and laws, like a moral code, that must be followed at all times
In Salem in the 1600s, the Puritans were instructed to follow a very strict set of rules and laws regarding morality. Anyone who did not obey was looked upon with extreme suspicion. It’s the same at Reddit. Now, there’s nothing wrong with rules, not at all, but the excruciating detail of the rules and sub-rules and sub-sub rules, and the fervor with which they are enforced, resemble a medieval community, not a modern group of rational people.
If the “community” thinks something is so, especially on a sub-Reddit, then no amount of logical explanation will convince them otherwise. It doesn’t matter if you state the sky is blue; if Reddit says it’s green, then it’s green. Period. Like a pack of wild dogs hunting prey, the Reddit users will hunt you down and ban you for saying something that goes against their mass hysteria mindset. The citizens of Salem Massachusetts were the exact same way, especially when some people got accused of witchcraft. It didn’t matter that witches don’t exist, no; instead, innocent people were murdered right and left due to mass hysteria.
They’ll turn on you in an instant
You may think you’re “popular” at Reddit, but watch out! One fine day you could wake up and find yourself banned forever. Why? You ask? Well, there are a million possible reasons: jealousy at your success; one of the moderators disagrees with something you posted; you won more livestock at the auction than your neighbor, er… you got more “up votes” than someone else; or “just because.” There is really no rhyme or reason to banning. It can happen for any reason at any time. Just as in Salem, you may think you’re well-liked, but offend the wrong person and you could find yourself with tied to a stake…er… banned from the site.
Hierarchy and cliques
Recently, several people were asked “what’s wrong with Reddit? Why is it so difficult to use?” They all replied the same thing: “It’s very cliquish.” In addition to being very cliquish, it thrives on hierarchy. There are those in revered positions and those who are peons. However, as discussed in point three, no one is ever really safe, because if the clique decides you’ve done something wrong or haven’t “interacted” enough, you’ll be cast out of the site pretty quickly. Besides that, the infighting and vying for position resembles early Salem. In Salem in the 1600s, residents were looked upon by other towns as being “quarrelsome.” There were constant arguments about church privileges, property divisions and who would hold power positions. It’s almost as if the two communities are completely interchangeable.
She’s a witch! Burn her at the stake!…He/She’s a spammer! Ban him/her from the site!
Reddit users absolutely adore banning other users. The banning is totally out of control. You can get banned for posting your own articles, posting articles that aren’t “popular,” posting things that “aren’t interesting enough,” If you down-vote too much, if you down-vote too little, if you get labeled a “spammer” for no reason, if you post too many links from the same website, if the link you submit is not “relevant” enough, if you pick the wrong sub-Reddit and… the list goes on forever. Just like in Salem, you could be labeled a witch if you had a cat, if you expressed your own opinion too freely, if you lived alone, and again, the list goes on.
Of course, the users at Reddit will not agree with this assessment, just as the Puritans in Salem were unable to see their own psychosis and pack mentality. Reddit is like Salem Massachusetts in the 1600s. Do yourself a favor- stay away from Reddit, at least until the users there evolve out of their medieval thinking.
By: Steven Johnson