7/366 – The Unfortunate Trend of Being “Cool” With Reddit Cynicism

reddit-is-downI like online communities. I get drawn to them mostly because of the fact that I’m intrigued by the way they evolve and are built from the ground up. A healthy online community that gets any kind of traction is one of the most fascinating things for me to see, because every community is built just a slight bit differently. Some communities come up due to being the first┬ácommunity to discuss something of interest. Others are developed over time with dedicated content and regulars who spread the word about the community, bringing in more people that add to its flavor and identity. Yet others are happy accidents that develop simply out of a set of coincidental happenings that cause it to become well traveled and “online famous”

So it’s no surprise that I’ve been a solid Redditor for a few years now. Reddit’s mini-communities, taking the form of subreddits that discuss pretty much anything of interest (or share media with the same purpose) have given me enough variety, quirkiness, and resources to waste many a wholly-intended productive hour. Most communities are unique from one another, and purposes and management styles for each vary pretty heavily. The mostly hands-off approach from Reddit has (for the most part) served the site well, as a somewhat democratic style of votes dictates what comments are most visible.

But I’ve seen a very blah trend develop as the site has gotten popular, and it’s what I call “Reddit cynicism”. Somewhere down the line, it became uncool to provide any kind of the following in certain situations:

  • Optimism
  • Praise
  • Genuine Appreciation for others or events.

Instead what we’ve seen are responses to comments such as this one about recent news about a jerk CEO arrested on securities fraud:


..or this one in response to why there were a lot of threads appreciating Japanese voiceover in a game:


This is the kind of stuff that sort of turns me off to some online communities. When people shit on other people for liking something or expressing appreciation or positive opinion, I’m reminded of how in grade school back in the day, if you’re “too smart” or consistently get A’s or perfect test scores, you’re somehow labeled as uncool. Adults obviously see the illogical idea that fitting in means being as average as the rest of the people around you, but even though you can explain this away with it being just children being children, it’s no less disheartening.

Reddit’s resistance at times to optimism combined with the flaws of its upvoting and downvoting of posts being visible is the dark side of the laissez-faire way most of its communities are run. If you express an opinion that’s against the popular and prevailing one, you run the risk of comments like the above, or worse yet never seeing the comment reach your audience because it’s downvoted to oblivion. And if your comment is, in certain situations, one that is praise or even idealistic, the likelihood of this seems to increase. It’s a bad trend that has kept me away from many a thread or even a subreddit I’d normally frequent.

I’m a big believer that online communities thrive because of the breadth and width of opinions expressed, and that people can have disagreements without resorting to mocking who they don’t agree with. While the internet, and Reddit, are never going to be completely flame or cynic-free, I’d really hope that the cynical trend of acting like optimism or positivity is a bad trait doesn’t continue. There’s such a thing as being unrealistically happy-go-lucky, and real talk certainly has an appropriate place, but being cynical just for cynics’ sake or for the great upvote for “savagery” points just seems like a way to discourage the exchange of ideas that make a community a community in the first place. One can only hope Reddit and/or its various volunteer moderators work against the “edgy” cynicism that’s encompassed some of its more popular spaces.

Not that that’s going to stop me (or did you not notice the domain name of this site). Time to go proudly post about a TV moment that truly moved me.

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