Reddit has worked its way to the top of the internet over the course of the fifteen years that the site has been going strong, but it has garnered something of a reputation for itself over that time. Many people believe that Reddit is toxic, and I’m going to take a look at why exactly that might be the case.
So why is Reddit toxic? Reddit is perceived as a toxic site because of its community. Unfortunately, being anonymous on the internet has a way of bringing out the worst in people, and that seems to be what happens on Reddit. Keep in mind that this toxicity is often confined to specific subreddits.
There is a lot of nuance to whether or not a specific community of people is toxic, and the same is true for Reddit. I’m going to take a closer look at the factors that make Reddit’s community toxic in some circumstances, and I’ll also explore some issues and events related to Reddit’s perceived toxicity.
Why Reddit is Toxic
When someone says that Reddit is toxic, they typically have to clarify their statement. After all, it’s not like Reddit is some monolithic entity that thinks with a single mind. Even the people running Reddit often have different motivations from one another, so it can be hard to generalize.
The most common claim is that the community of Reddit is toxic, but this is also not necessarily a universal truth. Thanks to how Reddit is divided into so many subreddits, there’s no guarantee that one corner of the site will be anywhere near as toxic as other parts of Reddit, especially when you venture into the wilds of NSFW subreddits.
That being said, there’s certainly evidence that points to Reddit being far more toxic than you may think at first glance, especially if you take a look at the front page. When you venture past the front page, you’ll still find some holdout communities that are based off of toxic ideas, but many of these communities have been purged.
In the past, Reddit was rife with communities that subsisted on toxicity and hate. Subreddits like r/fatpeoplehate and r/TheDonald gave Reddit something of a bad name. In fact, these had such an impact on Reddit’s image (and the money that Reddit was making) that the site’s admins stepped in and banned these communities.
However, communities of people aren’t the only things that are toxic on Reddit. Sometimes the rot extends beyond the bottom rung and creeps into the management levels. For example, Reddit has had its fair share of domineering moderators who delete posts and comments at their leisure, especially if they disagree with them.
Even seemingly innocent communities like scale-modeling subreddits and the like have some moderators who simply don’t know when to take a step back and see what they’re doing. There’s no doubt that being a volunteer moderator for a subreddit is grueling work, but that’s no reason to take it out on community members.
Perhaps the most egregious form of toxicity in the eyes of Redditors is when site admins step in and abuse their powers. Admins are like moderators, but they apply to the entirety of Reddit, and they are often full-time employees who are charged with ensuring that the content on the site is in line with its rules.
Controversies like the u/Spez fiasco come to mind when you think of Reddit admins abusing their powers, but Reddit seems to have clamped down on its moderators being overtly toxic after the backlash from that particular event. After all, Reddit can’t have admins affecting their image.
At the end of the day, a major factor that contributes to Reddit being a toxic place is the fact that people are anonymous. Reddit is known for championing Redditors’ right to privacy, and that’s something that the community values and sees as something giving them a leg up over other social media platforms.
For example, you can’t even see other Redditors’ emails when you go to their pages. However, the level of privacy that Reddit gives its users also means that there are far fewer consequences for people acting up and being toxic compared to other social media networks and content aggregation sites.
Reddit’s Changing Environment
While Reddit may have garnered something of a reputation for its toxicity, this is changing relatively quickly as the executives at the top realize that it’s hurting their bottom line. While Reddit may have started off as a relatively independent website fifteen years back, it’s nothing like that in the present day.
Admins have gained more and more power, and Reddit no longer hesitates when it comes to swinging the ban hammer on communities that it believes don’t reflect its image properly. There have been many distasteful communities that have been banned, many of which I wouldn’t even bother mentioning.
Detractors argue that this goes against free speech, but they often fail to realize that Reddit is a private business and it can do whatever it wants to shape the image of its brand. However, as you’d expect from people who spout obscenities on the internet, common sense isn’t exactly their strong suit.
How You Can Counter Toxic Activity on Reddit
If you notice someone posting content on Reddit that is inherently toxic and has no redeeming qualities, then there are a few things you can do to make the community a better place. The report button allows you to report comments and posts that contain offensive content.
Keep in mind that reporting someone that you disagree with will accomplish absolutely nothing unless they’re actually breaking the site’s rules against abuse. In fact, you may end up getting punished for taking advantage of the report feature, especially if you do this excessively.
However, if you notice harassment or threats of violence on Reddit, then you are well within your rights to report that content. You may even manage to get someone banned, making the community a safer and more tolerable place for all of the site’s users.