In the past few hours, I’ve clicked on my “Google” bookmark link approximately 37 times. Why? Why would I do that? Have I suddenly been overcome with the sudden need to search for a myriad of terms?
No, it’s because it’s now filling the slot where my Reddit bookmark used to be. It was a place my mouse instinctually went if there was even a microsecond of hesitation on where I should go next on the internet. It was often my first and last click of any browsing session.
I don’t have an addictive personality in most regards. Not to drink, drugs or gambling, the traditional vices, at least. I’ve been known to become fully consumed by TV or video game for a solid week until completion, but nothing past that. Nothing like Reddit.
But no more.
I’ve never been more fully addicted to a singular website, and yes, I say that with the full scope of the internet in mind. Quite simply the place is a mecca for the bored and marginally intelligent. An endless list of constantly shifting links that will drain hours from your day without you even realizing it.
It wasn’t always like this. Reddit was about business before it was about pleasure. Back when Digg was still the big man on campus in terms of getting web traffic, it was also necessary to learn about its little brother Reddit. Well, over the years, Digg committed suicide and Reddit became the only brother in town.
For what I do, there is simply no other traffic source like Reddit. If you land an article on the front page with enough upvotes behind you, you can see hundreds of thousands of hits flood to a post in a matter of hours. Through the sort of money that comes with such traffic, I’ve had my rent bill paid in a day in the past when such a rare occurrence happened.
But along the way, Reddit became less of a site to be mastered, and more of an angry god you can only occasionally hope to please. I no longer submit my content there, as it’s a surefire way to get banned, and when I do managed to have a post go big there? The traffic is nice, but it always seems that I find myself reading a string of comments full of anonymous posters whose primary ambition is to tell me exactly how worthless I am as a writer and human being.
So I stay out of it now, professionally at least. Personally? That’s a whole different story. For what I do, great content to spotlight is often easy to pick from the site like low hanging fruit, but with the massive size of it these days, even items I find elsewhere were likely on Reddit at some point. It’s a case of “Simpsons did it.” Almost always, “Reddit posted it” first.
This picture is awesome, but almost assuredly on Reddit before it was here.
The site’s format was a turnoff to many, but it’s part of its addictive charm. A sea of blue links requires 25 clicks per page, and 25 chances to be wowed by something you find there. Then you see what’s on the next page. In this subreddit. In that subreddit. And oh boy, look at the time…
It’s easy to get caught up in the hivemind there as well. Though many commenters are quite funny and insightful, there’s a certain groupthink that starts to become eerie. I may agree with many of the sentiments found in more provocative subreddits like r/politics and r/athiesm, but reading them long enough, you can start to feel like you’re almost in a cult, hearing only what you want to hear, seeing only what you want to see. That often involves a lot of pictures of cats. I didn’t even like cats when I joined the site, but somehow I do now.
Then there’s a dumbing down of your internet browsing time, something Reddit excels at. Time online might normally be spent reading interesting articles, and though you’ll find a few of those on Reddit, you’ll find 100 times as many pictures that can be clicked and consumed within a few seconds. Why bother reading the latest New York Times op-ed when I can look at pictures of duck giving people bad advice for twenty minutes? On the front page at any given time, out of 25 links, probably 15 are pictures, 5 are internal self-post links and maybe, mayyybe 5 are actual articles. This is not a way to get smarter.
Why has it come to this? Why have I literally had to force myself to quit the site cold turkey? It was simply getting ridiculous. My attention span has been shattered to the pieces by the site, and I’m sick of it. I’m lucky if I browse the internet for more than twelve seconds without clicking on Reddit. Sometimes, I’ll close the Reddit tab, and somehow my next thought is “I wonder what’s on Reddit?” Before I can even process how stupid that is, I’ll already have reopened the tab via muscle memory.
I deleted the bookmark and the app. I can’t say I’ll never visit a subreddit or the front page again, as I’d like to keep up with various niche communities from time to time, but even if I’m cutting out that auto-click step by removing it from my bookmark bar, that’s going to kill at least 95% of my visits right off the bat. It’s not perfect, but it’s something. And of course, you’ll probably still see some stuff posted here that was on the site at one point or another as people tend to send in links from there. Reddit is not an evil place, I just have to force myself to use it in moderation.
I suppose I could have worse addictions, but to me, nothing is a greater sin than wasting time. And Reddit has claimed so many of my hours so far, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the trend continue when I could be doing so much more with those seconds that tick away in mild amusement. It all counts. Two minutes of browsing multiplied by ten thousand visits is a hell of a lot of time that could be spent on something that actually matters.
Get out now.
Before it’s too late.