The Many Echo Chambers of Reddit

Reddit is an interesting forum. The most glaring difference between it and a forum along the lines of GBAtemp or similar is either the ‘subreddit’ system or the ‘upvote/downvote’ system.
Simply put, the subreddit system allows you to create a dedicated board to your topic of interest. For example, if you love fish burgers, and want to exclusively discuss fish burgers with other people, then you could create a dedicated subreddit, which you could then access said subreddit via something like ‘/r/fishburgers’ if you named it so.

The second point of distinction is the voting system. 

You see, every post and thread on Reddit can be voted on. In regards to posts, the more votes a post has, the more likely it’ll be to show up at the top of a thread. If a post gets enough ‘downvotes’, it is automatically hidden and sent to the bottom of the thread. 

Thread votes determine the odds of them being the first things you see entering either the Reddit home page or the subreddit’s front page. Enough downvotes and your odds of seeing said thread start vanishing into thin air.

At first glance, this seems like an excellent system, right? And it has received quite a bit of praise. Important stuff rises to the top i.e cat videos, junk to the bottom. Subreddits are a great way to talk to people you share interests with, right?

This does have its advantages, I’ll admit. But something that isn’t talked about nearly enough is its ability to create echo chambers.

What is an echo chamber? Imagine a massive cave where you state opinions. In a normal forum cave, you’d usually receive debate and alternative opinions. In an echo chamber, when you state an opinion, all you get back is what amounts to the exact same opinion, if somewhat distorted.

Understanding this, you can see immediately see the issues with this. Each subreddit is usually nothing more then an echo chamber thanks to the voting system. While this isn’t an issue with some kind of dog-loving subreddit, it is especially an issue with political and similar. Even if you have an opinion backed by mountains of evidence so airtight a bloody bacterium couldn’t get out, that doesn’t matter. It conflicts with the subreddit’s user’s worldview, and as such, it’s downvoted, never to be seen.

But you know what, let’s say we consider this acceptable in a sub such /r/conservatives, saying that people come there to discuss their mutual opinions, not argue. Alright, that’s fair. But what about subs such as /r/debatereligion or /r/politics? Admittedly, In the debate subs, the situation is significantly better. There are active disclaimers everywhere requesting that you don’t downvote simply because someone has a different belief then you. 

Politics, on the other hand, is a joke. The place is a leftist breeding ground. Well, I use breeding ground loosely due to the very likely possibility that most of these guys might be paid actors, but that’s a topic for another day. While I could go into intimate detail about the many sins of /r/politics, I’m simply going to leave it at: Wow! This place sucks!

The depressing thing is that these systems were part of what propelled Reddit early on. Even now, the prospect of simply talking with people I know share interests with me is appealing. 

That’s not to say it’s completely terrible. If you put in the effort, you can edit the home page so it only shows threads from subreddits important to you. And sorting by controversial (so that you see the lowest rated threads and posts) is an option. But on its own? Reddit is built to crate echo chamber after echo chamber; a world where opinions are never challenged.

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