How I escaped Reddit after a 6 year addiction
Back in 2013 despite the fact that the web was experiencing one of its biggest booms in terms of sharing knowledge and advice, forums and bulletin boards were still one of the most popular places to find information and advice on most topics. For each forum you were required to make an account, pick a username and confirm your email which even to this day was a really cumbersome and honestly, really pointless task when you just intended on making one post asking for advice. Even worse than this, was the fact that you would have to sit and wait patiently, sometimes for weeks to get a reply that would hopefully answer your question.
I remember back when I didn't even know of the existence of Reddit. Reddit had been around for over a decade before I even got wind of it and I don't actually remember the day that I found it, or how I started using it. I just remember what life was like before it... I remember how many days or weeks I used to spend searching high and low for answers o problems I had about software or science.
The difference was, that I was happy. I didn't get all of the answers to my questions immediately, but I was entirely free from distraction. When I went looking on Google for advice or information, even if it meant taking the time to register on a forum to get past some kind of guest-wall that required registering to see the content I was looking for (see paywall).
When I started using Reddit I was amazed at how quickly people would reply to a question and not just how fast the replies were but generally how 'good' the replies were (very past-tense 'were'). In addition to this, themed subreddits generally had a Wiki that was full of mostly up-to-date information and tips from people who had more-often-than-not spent a few years polishing the advice and knowledge therein.
The problem was that Reddit was a two-way street. For every post of advice, there was this weird kind of 'unwritten law' that you should also be one to answer questions that you were qualified in answering. This wasn't made any easier to ignore with the presence of 'karma' Reddit's system of “rewarding” (heavy inverted commas here) people who make what the community consider 'good posts' and what amounts to shaming those who make 'bad posts'.
For a time Reddit was like finding a gold-mine. I had a connection to knowledge and advice at my fingertips that had basically no lag what-so-ever and I could get a response almost instantly. I used Google (search engines) less and less, and as for forums? Hah, I would never bother to register, think of a username and confirm my email on one of those ever again. Especially as they were getting hacked left and right and user's account information was getting stolen in staggering numbers (see image below, mind you these were throwaway accounts but the number is still insane).
Through the years of using Reddit I came to become totally reliant on it. Reddit was my go-to for advice on pretty much any topic. Heck it was my go-to for even entertainment. I was consuming Reddit on an absolutely massive scale and the worst part, was that I was even spending hours and hours of my life trying to find content to post that others might like, whether I was posting what I found on the net or even making half-assed content myself from scratch. I was doing this even though I wasn't gaining anything at all personally... and when I wasn't doing this I was answering questions and trying to help out. I didn't remotely care about Reddit the company/brand (in fact I sorta hated them) but I was completely sucked into helping others simply because I got a couple of good answers all those years ago and some dumb karma points that I was constantly trying to convince myself that I didn't care about.
By now Reddit had changed a lot and I was starting to see the growing trend of shill posts, astroturfing and a lot of other really shady behavior. The ease of making an account without even needing to provide an email address much less ever confirm it, was actually becoming a negative trait. People were making shill accounts left and right, sock puppets to argue their agenda and try to make it seem like they had a large amount of support. Now when I checked account's post history, comments, even the subs that were frequented on them. The more I started to look, the more patterns emerged. New user accounts that had few posts were somehow appearing out of nowhere in subs they had never visited to make controversial posts or replies to other controversial posts/replies. Things were well and truly starting to get out of hand.
Around this point I started downsizing my Reddit usage but even unsubscribing from a few subreddits that were really just a distraction and mere procrastination-fuel at this point caused me to go into immediate full scale withdrawal. I upped the ante without even realizing it and I made more posts and put more effort into other subreddits that I liked.
The problem was that I had completely unrealistic and personal expectations for certain subreddits, like they would somehow stand for something on their own. Without realising (or remembering) that people from all walks of life, all beliefs, all ideologies can post freely without even needing to register or confirm an email or provide any remote proof of their neutrality and objectivity, heck even the moderators of these subreddits are often the most guilty of such behavior. On the contrary this was now a platform with so many agendas being pushed so often and so heavily, that the only way to fight back was to reply in kind.
Things were now well and truly out of hand. I had lost trust in multiple subreddits that I once thought were beacons of 'free speech' and 'neutrality'. I also wondered how I went from getting advice, to finding myself even wanting to be on such subreddits. People were going ape-shit left and right and Reddit mods were banning people without even blinking, locking and outright deleting threads in waves of censorship. Moderator personal information was being leaked by furious members bent on trying to and uncover injustices and mods were being accused of having a personal agenda that completely infringed upon what people had come to expect the standard of a subreddit to be. The line between free speech and hate speech was completely blurred and no longer was there any 'fair' middle ground.
So I further downsized my usage. I unsubbed from literally ALL of the subreddits I was using. Used add-ons to block comments and even remove the comment box to try to lessen any urge I would have to respond to the masses of agenda pushing posts I was seeing, disguised as 'self-help' or 'advice'. So the only thing I could see was the first opening post in a thread I was reading. The problem here was that I initally wanted Reddit to be something I used for my own personal gain, but instead no one was gaining anything any more, least of all me. There was no 'right way' to use Reddit. Even after deleting all of my posts and then my account and reading the site still with comments hidden and no account, I was still face to face with politically charged poison on a site that I once naively thought was just about sharing knowledge.
So I sat down and I thought. How did this all happen? How many years had gone by. No one had changed my opinion in years. I was still the stone-faced guy who joined the site 6 years ago, in what I thought was me taking advantage of a wealth of knowledge available at lightning speed that was only one or more questions away. Why was I now searching for advice I didn't even need? I had gone from being reactive and looking for help only when necessary, to literally seeking it out of hobby.
Had I changed anyone else's opinions? Had I prevented a school shooting? Had I done anything meaningful? Even if I had, at what cost? How many hours, days, weeks of my life had I spent? How many hours of sleep had I lost conversing with others when I should be sleeping? How utterly far had I completely thrown all caution to the wind and gone from having healthy routines to waking up and checking Reddit only to be disgusted with what I saw. When it wasn't so utterly obvious advertising, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. It was some of the most insane level of shilling I've ever witnessed, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, check 1st comment
If you have the time, check the accounts that made those posts to find that they were ultimately deleted, brand new and just otherwise completely obvious shill posts or obvious bait, 90% of the time they stopped posting as soon as they were caught (read: burned). This is what passes for 'quality content' on Reddit. Even worse, a lot of subreddit communities were deleted for continuously exposing this shady and disingenuous behavior. So much for free speech.
So people couldn't be trusted, upvotes couldn't be trusted and could be bought for a few cents each and not even the mods could be held to a standard...
There was only one option. Completely and utterly boycott Reddit entirely and go back to search engines and trawl through forum posts for advice. I knew that it would prove frustrating at first, and I knew that it would take a lot of tries to ween myself off the site but it absolutely had to be done. Everything half-decent that once made it the most popular website on earth even kinda worth visiting, was now owned by companies or littered with politically charged wars and people were pissed.
At least forums were generally heavily moderated and posts didn't get personal and remained technical and mostly objective.
It wasn't as hard as I thought though and I soon realized there were so many other and better websites and communities for advice and information on topics I was interested in.
Really it seemed that the internet was doing fine despite Reddit having a majority monopoly on discussion. The Fediverse was also another interesting place for discussion but sadly suffers from a lot of the same problems as Reddit and in particular, Twitter are suffering from. Which is that a lot of people with no confirmed knowledge or expertise in topics behaving like they are some kind of authority on the topics they discuss... For anyone who isn't easily baited into arguments or strawmans it's not usually a problem but for those who aren't familiar with slide tactics and fallacies, one can get sucked into an argument that quickly goes from being casual to personal...
I will admit that at times I have missed Reddit and for some very, very niche questions I haven't found any other websites that would be better suited to the questions I have except for certain niche subreddits. However, I've decided that I can live without knowing the answer to every little niche question that I have and that most of the time I can just adapt and either live without or simply tackle the problem from another angle rather than just racing off to the world's worst bulletin board that's littered with both blatant and disguised ads and scores of furious politically charged people walking the edge of the banhammer. Besides, I got on fine without Reddit for the majority of the time I've spent online.
If Duckduckgo doesn't know the answer, then I'll either find out myself or look for an alternative. I only wish there was a browser add-on that let me remove every link to Reddit in any of my search results and I would truly be a happy man. When the eventual day that Reddit completely collapses and evidence of their treachery is made public, I will toast champagne to their demise.