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Reddit… I read it

So, I am choosing to explore Reddit. A number of people I know talk about Reddit, and I’ve been on it before but I don’t understand how it works, or who it is for; nor do I understand how to navigate the platform. My initial sense is that people seem to talk about it like it’s a niche demographic who uses it, but I don’t know who that demographic is. It seems to be the kind of thing people say “if you know, you know” to. I have no idea if that’s accurate. So, time to explore, and I’m off to create an account!

Ok, so I was able to sign up with my Google account, which also happens to be my work account. It immediately asked me my gender, and then asked me three different things I would like to see in my feed, similar to other platforms. During class when we talked about the Twitter feed I went on and followed the #eci833 feed. Mike had tweeted  a video about why he had quit Twitter. Here it is:

This gave me some insight to the Reddit demographic, and kind of tracked what my limited impressions already were: people who think they know stuff…? 

Next, Reddit asked me to choose a community to be a part of. I don’t understand how the communities work, or what a sub-Reddit is. I assume I will figure that out…

All right, I’ve spent some time on the Reddit app, but to be honest, I’m still not really sure who or what this platform is for, or how it is significantly different from other platforms. I’m able to scroll videos, and the app leads me to more like videos. There’s a comment section, and then an up vote or down vote button – I suppose the down vote is a bit different. It’s certainly more text based than Instagram or TikTok, and FB as well, which speaks to the play on the title “I read it.” There are a lot of pics and videos on my stream, but I also see a lot more writing than my other social platforms, so that’s one major difference. I think I am going to spend a bit of time exploring what other people have to say about the platform. 

This blog explains that Reddit is “Reddit isn’t often mentioned alongside the “big” social networks, though it’s one of the most influential. It boasts 420 million users — 20% higher than the population of the United States — and receives more traffic than Amazon with over 1 billion monthly unique visitors. Reddit continues to grow by double digits every year, adding 25% more users in 2020 and 14% more in 2021. That growth, combined with 40% of Gen Z searching social platforms for info instead of Google, makes Reddit a unique opportunity for brands.” Apparently it labels itself as “the front page of the internet” so that gives me some more context for the site. 

Ok, so another explanation I found helpful is this: “Reddit is a social network with a forum-style discussion structure. Users create posts in topic-based communities — called subreddits — and interact in comment threads. Every thread has an OP (original poster) who started it. Users can also vote content by others “up” or “down” the algorithm.” Now I understand the big picture concept of subreddits, and why I am getting the context that I am on my feed. I liked that the writer above also explained the site as kind of a cross between a forum and a more modern social networking site – hence the focus on the written element. 

Later on in the same article author Michelle Martin identifies some primary uses on Reddit:

  • To ask for help with a specific problem, such as tech tutorials (or big life crises)
  • Subscribing to subreddits to stay informed about their favorite topics
  • Connecting with others who share their interests
  • To learn something new (check out r/IWantToLearn)
  • For entertainment via memes, humor subreddits, or to discuss TV or movies

Once I finished reading Martin’s article, I found I had a much better understanding of the purpose of Reddit, and how people used it. Another article I read explained some popular acronyms unique to the site, or perhaps initially generated by the site. Here are some common ones, taken from the TechTarget article:

  •  ELI5: Explain like I’m 5 — A term used when redditors want something explained to them in very simple terms, as if they were a five-year-old asking for the answer to a question. A popular subreddit, explainlikeimfive, exists for this very purpose.
  • TLDR or TL;DR: Too long; didn’t read — In some longer posts or comments, redditors may place a, “TLDR” at the end of their text for the purpose of shortening what they wrote if other redditors do not want to take the time to read the entire post.
  • NSFW: Not safe for work — When redditors make a post or comment that has explicit content, it is marked with this acronym to let other redditors know not to view the content at work or any place where explicit material would be unsuitable.
  • TIL: Today I learned — Used mainly in the form of “TIL” posts, this term is used when redditors want to share something new they learned.
  • OP: Original poster — The redditor who created the initial post.
  • AMA: Ask me anything — A popular acronym used on Reddit’s “IAmA” subreddit, where redditors can post “AMA” threads. This is another name for a Q&A thread, where redditors answer questions about their life and, usually, their occupation. President Barack Obama made headlines when he participated in an AMA on Aug. 29, 2012. He was the first sitting president to do so.

I have heard of some of these, specifically AMA and NSFW. AMA has become common in other platforms as well, but I primarily associate it with Reddit, so I assume it originated from the platform. I wondered where the NSFW acronym originated from, but as I googled it, I learned it wasn’t Reddit where it originated, but apparently Snopes. 

After all this I had a much better sense of how the platform worked, but I still had no sense of its users. I mean, I have a general sense of who uses Facebook – 35 plus for stalking purposes, 45 plus for actual sharing of content (please note these statements are solely based on my own observations and interactions with various platforms). Instagram seems to be a cross over of young and old, though my feed seems to indicate that it’s used by primarily 20-50 year old women. Finally, TikTok is the land of the youth… I know these are pretty broad terms, but I have an overall sense of the vibe of these platforms, and I don’t for Reddit, outside a vague know-it-all kind of feeling that I can’t pinpoint the root of. Anyway, I looked up some of these memes below, as they proved helpful to visualize what I was trying to identify above. Dolly and Sex and the City memes make the platform purpose pretty clear. 

I then searched for comparable memes using Reddit, and I found a few helpful images. This image is from Reddit itself, and while it didn’t help me understand the general vibe or demographic of the platform, it did help me understand the way it’s used compared to other platforms I am more familiar with:

One of the other things I think is really interesting is the way the algorithm curates the “front page” of Reddit. One article described it as based solely on upvotes, but as I explored this a bit further, I realized this is not exactly true. JungleTopp explains it this way: “Reddit uses a story algorithm, meaning the number of votes and submission time of links have the biggest impact on how stories rank on the platform. Reddit also ranks items by the number of votes they accumulate, as well as the age of the post compared to others. This is what makes the front page always appear fresh to a new user.” However, I’m not sure if this means I will get a wider range of content on my front page, or if it will work like other platforms, and give me more of what I seem to like via my engagement with the app. Ostensibly, it should be the former, but I’m unconvinced, given my current front page of funny memes, ChatGPT and satisfying videos. 

In terms of the platform’s usefulness to teachers or students, I found a few articles that seemed to suggest that it could be helpful. This American Board article suggested a few specific subreddits that could be helpful. One, simply identified as “Teachers” “is loaded with educators from across the country asking questions, telling their stories, and discussing common frustrations. Occasionally, students will also pop-up on the forum. They often ask for advice on how to handle a situation with their teachers. The forum provides a safe space to ask questions, get answers, and brainstorm ideas outside of the classroom.” Another subreddit is designated as teaching resources, and there are many more specific to subject area. I checked out the ELA subreddit, and found some interesting conversations, like this one about ChatGPT in the ELA classroom. However, there was a lot of information and it was kind of all over the place – from pictures of proms, to requests for ELA lit recommendations for middle school, to grade 9 ELA paper topics to meme sharing. It seemed like a lot to navigate so I’m not sure how much I would use it. 

In terms of student use, I did read an article from called “5 Ways to Use Reddit for Studying.” If you can find a community that actually shared similar class content, I can see how this could be quite helpful. Because the platform is so text based, it looks like it would be quite easy to share issues with content in terms of specific subject areas. I searched on Reddit to see if I could find anything with active students. I randomly chose chemistry, and quickly found this link to a subreddit focused on chemistry help. It is an incredibly active sub (lingo for subreddit, look at me go!), with many posts in the last few days. There seems to be quite an active community, and I think this could be of use to students in terms of help with specific subject area content, especially at the high school level. 

My general assessment: we will see! I don’t think I have spent enough time yet exploring the platform to know if it’s something I will use regularly. However, I’ll continue to check it out as I’m scrolling in bed at night, and keep you posted as to my overall assessment! I would like to explore enough to at least know if this meme is funny. Or to understand it. 


Author: Janeen Clark

I am a teacher with Regina Public Schools in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Primarily I teach ELA and Fine Arts, and I am a part of Balfour Arts Collective.

2 thoughts on “Reddit… I read it”

  1. I need an ELI5 for basically all new apps or tech tools, so I appreciate your thorough explanation and review! I have never really done the reddit thing but I know what it is on a very basic level, so your post definitely helped advance my understanding. Those Dolly/Sex in the City memes were helpful – a picture is worth a thousand words! One thing I’ve kind of gathered from the reddit community (and my basic knowledge of what that even means) is that as a forum ish platform forces members to use critical thinking skills in terms of credible content and even in understanding sarcasm/humour in written expression, which I’ll take as a plus because I find students sometimes have a hard time picking up on that in class readings (maybe because they think everything taught in class needs to be serious, which is def not the case). Great post, Janeen!


  2. Oh, Janeen. Thank you so much for this comprehensive overview of Reddit. I have many friends send me funny things on reddit, so I honestly assumed it was like a different verson of Instagram. I really appreciated you breaking down some of the liiiingo: ELI5 and TL;DR. I have noticed these used quite a bit, and I’m very thankful you explained them. I mean, I guess I could have just googled them. Haha. I can appreciate that there are “subreddits” (did I use that right?) to subscribe that may interest some us educators. Gosh. Sometimes I just think there are TOO many options for us, you know? Just stick with the one that tickles your fancy and roll with it.


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