In attempting to articulate my feelings about reddit, I always begin composed, logical, some might even say scholarly. But eventually I will undoubtedly devolve into a raving lunatic, threatening to cancel my internet connection and emancipate myself from my own generation. Forgive my occasional lapses in logic and inflammatory language; I’m trying.
I am not going to talk about the overwhelming culture of haters. It is there, for sure, but it gets enough attention. Haters gonna hate and the anonymity of the internet will always protect these Negative Nellys, no matter how many Anti-Cyber-Bullying PSAs are produced. My problem with reddit is what I see as a flawed culture of cool, a lack of creativity in humor, and a popularity contest for the “unpopular.”
Reddit is a community made up of self-proclaimed “nerds”. But it is liking nerdy things that makes them cool in this world: superheroes, Pokemon, canceled cult classics, fantasy series’, etc. Instead of the world created in Mean Girls, where hot chicks and football players rule all, the world of reddit is a nerd’s paradise. It is a place where playing Zelda and building your own PC are badges of honor instead of a Coach purse. But the world of reddit is no less mean and exclusive as the world of Mean Girls. Don’t play old-school Mario on your N64? Lame. Don’t understand that obscure Arrested Development reference? Don’t come back until you’ve watched all 3 seasons. Don’t think the Philosoraptor is hilarious? Get out. Now.
Reddit has created a world where liking something is somehow a reflection of who you are. If you think 30 Rock is funny, you must be funny. If you read Harry Potter, you must be smart. If you come up with a caption for a “Y U NO” Guy comic, you must be creative. But is this really so? The culture of reddit feels inherently uncreative. Someone makes an image taken from a TV show with the exact text and gets upvotes. This person didn’t write or create anything. They merely recognized that something was funny. Why the praise? People take a meme and regurgitate it in every form possible. Even new memes are references to old ones.
It’s difficult to create a funny video, it is easy to post one. It is difficult to craft a witty joke, it is easy to plug things into a meme generator. It is hard to be funny, cool, and smart in a large group’s eyes. It is easy to like, or at least claim to like a list of shows, movies, and games on reddit’s “cool list” in order to gain approval. Posting something cool is infinitely less impressive then creating something uniquely cool and yet redditors tend to be satisfied with very little, perhaps because it means getting approval is made easier.
I am well aware of my overgeneralizations. There are plenty of things on reddit that are creative, interesting, funny, and smart. There are plenty of good people who are not merely the Regina Georges of the internet world. My problem is with the overall culture of humor on reddit that is seeping into all corners of the internet. Go right ahead, laugh at your memes, post your troll faces, jump for joy when your comment gets 100 upvotes. But do you want your “cool” to be reflected by the things you like instead of the things you make/are? Is wearing pink on Wednesdays to gain your peers’ approval any better than creating a rage comic to gain your peers’ approval? And finally, do we really need another advice animal?
My latest project. An 8-bit inspired needlepoint pillow for a nice fellow who has been kind of enough to be my buddy for 3 years.
I like to think of myself as an intellectual: someone who reads, and writes and thinks about the issues of the world, someone who scoffs at Twilight fans and throws words like “tortiloquy” around. But every time one of those darling Toddlers snaps in her flippers and puts on her diamond-encrusted gown, my intellectual image of myself melts. I love reality television. I would love to be one of those people who says “What’s a Snooki?” or changes the channel to CNN when they see a Kardashian pop up on their screens. But alas, I am not. I love the sound of wealthy women screaming at each other in a limo, waving their sparkly clutches in the air; I cannot get enough of pregnant teenagers arguing with their parents over whether or not they should be allowed to hit up da club; I live for T-shirt time.
I don’t lead a life at all similar to what you might see on the Jersey Shore. I don’t drink, I don’t frequent the club, and I have never screamed at another woman at a fancy dinner party. The drama in my life is limited to the occasional spat with my sister over who is the proper owner of the Yoshi tank-top. So when I flip on the TV and turn the station to the Bravo Network, I am ushered into a magical kingdom of cat fights and tiny dogs. I am mystified by their worlds and endlessly fascinated with their antics. I imagine this feeling is similar to a child reading Harry Potter for the first time and being amazed by a world so different from their own. While they pine for witchcraft and wizardry, I long for toddlers and tiaras.
“These people are terrible. They get paid to lead their ridiculous lives and are famous not because they accomplished something great or had an amazing talent but simply because they are hot messes.” I totally agree and I really cannot think of anyway to justify my obsession other than explaining that it is not limited to television. I seem to have been born with a perverse desire to “listen in” on other people. On the bus, I like to situate myself in front of people having a conversation. Sometimes the conversations are dull: plans for fishing trips, thoughts on healthcare, or gardening tips. But other times I am given a glimpse into the lives of people with problems and insights far more interesting than my own: a couples’ very public and very heated argument, BFFs discussing the horror of someone else wearing their hair in a side pony curled to Homecoming, or a woman reminiscing about the great times she had at the Berkeley Free Clinic. Maybe I shouldn’t endorse the qualities that reality TV stars espouse but real people are infinitely funnier than the ones we make up, drama is fun, especially if you are not directly involved, and life, at least my life, is more enjoyable with these crazies.
Women’s issues are so often linked to beauty. As a sex, we are pretty darn beautiful so I can see how this could become something we are concerned with. However, every time I hear a discussion on women and weight, both sides of the discussion disappoint me. Anorexia is a problem. With one in 200 women developing anorexia nervosa, this is certainly something we should be concerned about. I am aware that the media’s portrayal of a very unrealistic, idealized, and exclusive form of beauty contributes to this problem. The culture of women posting pictures of skinny women on their refrigerators as “thinspiration”, or bonding over how much they hate their thighs, is flawed. However, the counter culture of “loving your curves” and calling any slender woman anorexic is also flawed. It seems that most women have divided themselves into two camps: “I Love my Body” and “I Hate my Body”. I propose a third option: “I appreciate my body’s ability to walk, wiggle my toes, and keep my heart beating. Otherwise, it is a relatively meaningless device.”
Women have been trying to tackle this issue of beauty in all the wrong ways. You can’t just say “Everyone is beautiful” because everyone isn’t. You can’t glorify thinness or curviness because either way, someone is left out. Instead of trying to redefine beauty or find some way for everyone to be invited to the Pretty Party, we need to step back and figure out why we are so concerned with it to begin with. When you think about the things you love about yourself, should your curves, or lack thereof, make the list? My legs may be long and nice to look at, but can I really take ownership of them? I did nothing to get them and they say nothing about myself other than “I can walk”. My body is a useful vessel but the things that are best about me do not lie on my face or my hips. I am awesome because I work on being awesome. I, with the help of others, have cultivated myself into a caring, smart, funny, thoughtful person. The ugly bunions on my feet and the cute freckle on the end of my nose had little to do with this process.
I am by no means impervious to the allure of being “hawt”. I am prone to slyly checking myself out, zooming in on pictures of myself, or lingering in the mirror a little too long while getting ready in the morning. Beauty is fun, there is no denying that. It is fun to dress up, sashay down the street, and revel in the glory of youth. However, it is unimportant. Like the Kardashians, or the latest Ke$ha single, it is a fun indulgence but should not play a very important role in your life. It is not about loving your curves or hating your thighs, it is about liking yourself, the parts of yourself that you made notable and are not made of muscle or bone.