If internet lingo is anything to go by, then I guess you’d call me a ‘lurker’ when it comes to my use of both Reddit and Twitter. I could possibly count all the posts I’ve made across the two sites with my fingers and toes, and still have a couple digits to spare. I’ve had accounts on both sites for nearly a decade now, though I only find myself actually on them when it comes to very specific scenarios. Reddit for when I want a recommendation on something like a new pair of headphones, or to see how others rank every arc in One Piece, and Twitter to see reactions of others during an NBA playoff game—mainly for the admittedly hilarious memes.
Aside from that, Twitter to me is the place where right-wing grifters like Ben Shapiro and Ian Miles Cheong use their ‘freedom of speech’ to herd their sheep, and where George Takei has posted over one hundred thousand times (where do you find the time, George?). Reddit, on the other hand, is even more of an enigma to me as it feels like a cavalcade of just…stuff; from endless memes half of which I’m too much of an old soul to understand, to impassioned arguments over the most trivial of things, though I guess that latter point can be made for Twitter if not the entire internet.
So when the masses on Twitter threatened an exodus upon the announcement of their new billionaire leader, Elon Musk, in October of 2022 I understood how substantial it was though can’t say it had a real affect on my day-to-day life. Many flocked over to the Germany-originated social network, Mastodon, though that only lasted for a month or two before many of those that left would eventually return as the fires over at Musk HQ simmered somewhat. And that’s one thing that I’ve noticed. Regardless of all the head-scratching – if not outright laughable or infuriating – decisions Musk has made since his takeover, people stay.
The site still has over 400 million users globally, a third of which are active daily. It didn’t matter that Musk began charging for verified check marks, that he laid off thousands upon thousands of workers, or that he reinstated the accounts of a slew of previously banned white-supremacists who actively spread misinformation; the people are still there. Now of course when I say people I only mean around 9% of the entire population, most of which are 25-34 year old males from America; but still, they are people nevertheless. Will they keep being there after Musk’s recent decision to cap the number of daily tweets a user can view in order to mitigate supposed data scraping? Probably. Frankly, 600 posts (now apparently 1,000 as of writing) is already far more than I’ll ever need in a day. But again, I’m just a wandering lurker who only looks over the hedges every so often, if only to see the house burn.
Reddit, on the other hand, has been (surprisingly) more impactful to my daily life. On June 12th, 2023, thousands of subreddits went private to protest against the company’s decision to begin charging third-party developers for access to their data. Now, as a laymen, I won’t pretend to understand what that means and nor will I try an explain it. But for a couple days the entire site ‘went dark,’ and many of the massive subreddits weren’t accessible. This protest was scheduled to end on June 14th, but many have chosen to keep their page private indefinitely.
It was and still continues to be quite the shock. Even for someone like myself who isn’t active on the platform, I didn’t realize how much I actually referenced the site for quick thoughts, opinions, and suggestions of others who were (hopefully) more knowledgeable than myself pertaining to whatever subject I was querying Google about. From quick cooking tips, to gaming guides, to even some medical advice from those who had suffered from similar symptoms (one should always move with caution on this one, but I will be ever grateful to those on r/kidneystones for helping me help my wife through her weeks-long battle with a pesky – and painful – kidney stone).
I won’t ever find myself needing Twitter. I’ll miss catching some great NBA memes live, but if Musk burns the site down in the coming months I will move on with an indifferent shoulder shrug—I’d only pray that he burns with it. I do hope the higher-ups at Reddit do right by their users, understanding that without them the site would cease to exist. Though I don’t plan to opine about my every fleeting thought on the site, I do need it the next time I’m curious about how others would rank the Metal Gear Solid games.