As I fine tune some of my curriculum from the social media strategies course I teach, I always end up defending Reddit. Even though I love the social news and media bookmarking site, I inevitably find myself explaining it to everybody – including students – because not only have they never used it, very few of them have even heard of it.
In my course, students are forced to experiment with Reddit during the semester and an interesting thing happens when they do.
Once they try it, people love Reddit.
Somehow, Reddit does a better job of instantly making you feel like you are part of a community than other platforms. Want to find other people who are fans of the underrated Ford Maverick? Reddit has an entire discussion topic / forum (known as a subreddit) of people just like you. Subscribe, and before you know it you will be exchanging advice for tuning that classic Thriftpower Six. My 1973 Maverick was brown and had four doors, by the way. I remember telling my dad about my plans to fix it up and him looking at me like I had just said something really, really dumb (I turned my energy to my Commodore 64 instead and the rest is history, I suppose).
Similarly, I get very consistent feedback from my students after they use Reddit for a week or two.
I loved it, but man is it ugly.
Yep, just like my Ford Maverick. It was never very fast. It looked like a sweet potato with wheels. And the stereo made everything sound like AM radio beamed over from Neptune. But it did exactly what it said it was going to do, and it did it well. Drive to school? Check. Drive to football practice? Check. Get attention from girls? Nope. Check the owner’s manual, bub – that’s not a standard feature on a Maverick.
Am I saying that Reddit could be huge if they just updated the interface? Maybe. But I think that loyal Reddit users sort of like not having too many “outsiders” in their midst. I find this odd, considering that the platform is owned by Advance Publications, the 44th largest private company in the United States. They also own Conde Nast (GQ, Vogue, Wired, Ars Technica), so they understand how important a modern aesthetic is to success, but they seem to be willing to let the stalwarts keep Reddit looking like a giant Listserv message from 1995.
That makes me sad, because it truly is a wonderful site – and I would love others to share the joy of using it. Looks aren’t everything, I know. But in the case of Reddit, looks seem to be holding back the rest of the platform’s benefits.
In any case, give Reddit a try if you haven’t already. You may find that Ford Mavericks are cooler than you thought.