My year on Reddit- by Crystal Lloyd
THIS IS A LONG PIECE.
August of last year, I decided to step onto Reddit as a different way to be social. I fell upon a group called Random Acts of Amazon, a sort of game oriented prize winning group. 20k strong world wide, this group is mainly a positive support network and people throw contests to buy each other gifts off of Amazon. Much like other forms of online gaming, it’s addictive. There is a true human element both in the subject nature of some of the contests AND in the stories and interaction among the active members.
I ran dozens of contests myself, ranging from “Name My Mead” to “Tell Me a Story.” There were times when I had hundreds of people competing to win as little as $5 prizes. There was a thrill in playing and running contests. There were times when I felt very joyful at helping someone out with a item they needed OR providing a collector with that one item they wanted. The thank you posts were an ego boost.There were charity group gifting too. When a true need could be verified, the group rallied to buy things like beds, strollers and even diapers.
Let me be honest, I loved to win too. Playing daily, I would win between 1-3 times a week. Usually items were less than $3, though sometimes I would win something as much as $100. Playing took time. Some games were complex scavenger hunts and others were detailed puzzles or research. The mental challenge was a fun part of the group.
In addition to the games, there was heavy emphasis on interacting in the “Daily”, an ongoing thread of status updates and commentary on each other’s lives. A number of people have become friends IRL (in real life) and there are group meetups around the globe. It’s common knowledge that you won’t win much on the contests UNLESS you interact with people on the Daily.
Over months, I read the postings of hundreds of people and posted my thoughts as well. I discovered that a large % of the active members are internet shut ins- people who do not leave the house and have little real life interaction for various reasons. Many are just people who want to talk or people (like me) looking for an escape. The internet is disturbing in the amount of info people reveal inadvertently. Reading the daily over time I could determine family status, location, job status and even a physical description of many key people. I took it for granted that people had the same info on me. My business makes me easily found by google search.
I found their were people I was fond of, witty writers, helpful positive people who went around bringing cheer. I set out to be a positive person on RAOA. I upvoted and supported peoples choices (which I would do anyway), I gave encouragement where I could. I got a lot of that in return too. When I couldn’t talk to my friends on FB (because EVERYONE knows EVERYONE ELSE), I could vent on the Daily.
People came and left over time. There was drama among members, jealousy, the usual cliches and behind the scenes chatting that is so indicative of the high school internet mentality. There was also the cry of several individuals that we should all meet in person. My reaction to these periodic pleas was unexpected. Yes, I know people’s names, lives, even seen pictures of their kids. There was very few that I truly wanted to meet. I never lied about my life or situations yet I had no desire to make lasting friendships this way. To me, they were a confessional, members in my online RPG raiding party. I felt for people, thought about their lives and even worried for them. Meet them? Maybe not. With that realization, the entire reason for joining became clear: I wanted control over my interactions online.
With worldwide access, Reddit is open 24/7. There was always a “friend” available to me. Unlike Facebook, I could talk to people without the commitment of “friending.” A post of sadness was typically met with support or advice. My reliance on this was a sign of a deeper issue. I miss my real life friends. People with lives, who can’t pick up the phone whenever I’m sad. I missed seeing people and doing fun things. A friend recently commented that while we (as a group) come together for crisis, rare is the day when we just schedule friendship time. I also missed giving and receiving gifts. There’s this weird grown up trend among my friends to say, “No gifts.” I bucked this trend on my birthday by not posting the expected phrasing. If people gifted or didn’t, I was happy they showed up. Here’s what I learned. My friends made me and found me far more thoughtful gifts than I had ever put up on my Amazon wishlist. Whether it was a handmade item or just the gift of their laughter- those few hours at my birthday party meant far more than months of little packages from China. I had been filling a void of being appreciated by playing games with strangers. What I really wanted was time with my friends.
I also recognized how much time I was spending away from my kids. My online time while scattered throughout the day, often involved telling my kids to wait while I finished typing. I was becoming one of the socially isolated people I felt sorry for.
This week, I stepped away from the computer. I went outside despite the heat and I did things good for my soul. I worked in the garden with my toddler. I read to him more and I made home cooked meals. Was this a dramatic change? No. I still want to avoid many of the boring aspects of my life. What I’ve discovered is that hiding is not the answer. I don’t know if I’ll be able to engage my friends into coming to hang out. I don’t know if they will make time in their lives for it. What I do know is I’m going to ASK. That is what I want ultimately, real friends and a life outside of the internet.
Will this mean I give up on Reddit? That has not been answered as of yet.