It's where Grumpy Cat was born, where President Barack Obama led a real-time Q&A, and where your storytelling abilities — of real or fictional plots — can become the stuff of Internet legend. It's also a great place to get brutally honest feedback on your creative output or helpful solutions for an embarrassing question without losing face. No one on Reddit cares about being superficially cool — in fact, the "nerdier" your contribution, the better. If you haven't experienced Reddit firsthand yet, we're going to give you some tips on how to make it worth your while.
Co-founder Alexis Ohanion created Reddit with the hope of making it the ultimate destination for online democracy: A place where mature people could post topics, share interesting links, and be able to police the content on their own. The site is almost entirely user-governed, with posts voted up or down based on how valuable/worthy/witty/disturbing readers find the content. The best content goes viral and makes history (for the week, anyway). And, that's it!
For successful content, we find that Redditors enjoy novelty, absurdity, and far-reaching originality. This isn't a place to post your acoustic Lorde cover (there's YouTube for that). This is the place to share your great-grandmother's lost love letters to Lenin or what happened when that time your Antarctic cruise left port early (surprise: you met your future soulmate, a marine biologist). Stuff that is so strikingly uncanny it has to be real — and talked about. The biggest cardinal sin of Reddit is to be boring or redundant. These are people who have "read it" all already. Feel pressured to be epic yet? Don't. Asking funny, left-field questions or posting links to something unmissable also does the trick.
You will learn by osmosis. Start by getting used to navigating the infrastructure of the place. You might not recognize Reddit's informational power at first glance — it can blindside you with textual stimuli — but your patience will pay off. Proudly stuck in Web 1.0 aesthetic mode, Reddit remains all-purple hyperlinks, collapsible threads, and looming white space — even eight years after its launch. But, realize that its humble appearance is something surprisingly few people actually bemoan. Redditors are more into content than form.
“Subreddits” are where you go to discuss particular topics — and there are more subreddits than the number of people on this planet (actually, there are just over 6,000, apparently, but people love to debate this). You can see them ranked here. "Pics" is by and large Reddit's most popular section; in fact, photo posts in general are so popular that it spurred its own site, Imgur, which gets even more hits than Reddit.
Other big subreddits include the self-explanatory "funny," "world news," "AskReddit," "todayilearned," and "aww" (feline posts dominate, but are certainly not limited to, that last category). All of these subreddits are recommended for maximal voyeuristic and entertainment potential. You can also find ones dedicated to more instructive (read: useful) topics, such as school and career. We also like the "You Should Know" and "I Want To Learn" categories, because they have something to quench everyone's thirst for knowledge. Then, of course, there's the "AmA" (Ask Me Anything) category, the place where the notable and famous come to do Q&As with their public. As mentioned, Obama has done it, as has Bill Gates, Lorde, Bill Nye, and the woman who had her face ripped off by a bear and lived to tell the tale.
Cyber democracy truly works its magic with Reddit being the only converging point where the most powerful politician in the world, a former rockstar, and anyone who has a "it happened to me!" moment can all share the warmth of the spotlight and endure the relentless curiosity of Redditors. If you have something unusual to share, you just need to be able to verify your story to the moderators, and be put on the "AMA" calendar. At the end of the day, Reddit is just another online interactive platform, yet potent. Its content inevitably ends up influencing the other media you consume, so why not make a habit of going directly to the source? Or even better, be the source.