Caught in the web of Reddit and 4chan

Caught in the web of Reddit and 4chan

Creative Commons photo by Antonio Zugaldia.

At the beginning of every math class, Xavier* ’16 opens up his laptop to take notes – at least, until he becomes bored or does not feel the need to pay attention any longer.

Then he opens up his web browser and types in a familiar web address: reddit.com, the self-proclaimed “front page of the internet.”

Reddit is one of several websites that provide user-based content especially popular among teenagers and young adults.

According to a Chronicle poll taken on Oct. 4, about 20 percent of students check reddit regularly, out of the 374 students polled.

The poll recounted that about 13 percent of students occasionally use reddit while in class.

Infographic by Kristin Kuwada/Chronicle

The site averages 169 million different visitors and 7.55 billion page views every month.

Reddit allows users to vote on posts, and popular content can earn a spot near the top of the website. Posts include text-based stories, images and links to other websites.

Users can also comment on posts and participate in discussions or answer questions.

Dmitri* ’16 visits reddit occasionally in his computer science class, but he said that he usually avoids it while at school.

“I browse reddit when I’m eating breakfast or when I get home,” he said.

Dmitri often visits subreddits – subsections of the main website catering to more specific audiences–such as AskReddit, a subreddit where users post questions and others offer answers, and WhoWouldWin, where users comment on which of two people or fictional characters would win in a fight.

Some of reddit’s most popular content comes in the form of memes, which are words, images and videos that have become ingrained in internet culture.

These memes include Success Kid, an image of a young boy pumping his fist; Bad Luck Brian, an image of a teenage boy with text describing his misfortunes; and Philosoraptor, a drawing of a pensive velociraptor overlaid with humorous philosophical questions.

Dmitri does not often seek memes on reddit, but he said that he does like Mr. Skeltal, a humorous meme about a skeleton playing the trumpet.

He usually goes on reddit for entertainment, but also visits tech advice subreddits when he needs help.

“It’s interesting,” he said. “I guess it’s kind of a way to kill time. But also, if I have technical problems, I’d much rather find a thread on reddit discussing it than go to some sketchy Yahoo Answers or something. So I use it for legitimate purposes too. And I subscribe to some educational subreddits.”

Ronaldo* ’16 used to visit reddit at school frequently, but he said he has decreased his reddit usage significantly in the past few months.

His internet browsing never hurt his school performance, but he can understand how it might get in the way of homework, he said.

“It doesn’t cause problems for most people unless you lose control,” Ronaldo said.

Much of Ronaldo’s internet browsing now takes place while he uses the restroom, he said.

Oliver Friedman ’17 first heard about reddit from his friends, and he now often visits the website.

“I read reddit every day religiously,” he said.

Friedman says that he never browses reddit during class, but he often sees his friends doing so. He has mixed feelings about memes, he said.

“I find some memes really funny and others pretty stupid,” Friedman said. “They all become unfunny after about a week, but some of them are absolutely hilarious during that time.”

While reddit is one of the most popular community-based websites, 4chan, another website featuring user commentary and images, is a close competitor.

4chan is divided into different boards where users can post content, much like how reddit is divided into subreddits.

Steve* ’16, who uses both reddit and 4chan, first heard about reddit when a friend recommended it to him. While on reddit, he learned about 4chan, which he now visits frequently as well.

4chan targets a similar audience to reddit. According to statistics released by the website, 70 percent of its users are male, and most are between the ages of 18 and 34 years old. 4chan has 22 million different visitors and 680 million page impressions every month.

Because users can post anonymously on 4chan and not on reddit, 4chan’s content tends to be more controversial and sometimes involves gore and bullying.

However, the anonymity of 4chan also allows users to share humorous stories that they might be embarrassed to share on reddit.

“For something you can browse anywhere, reddit is better,” Steve said. “If you’re in your own home, definitely 4chan, if no one’s watching especially.”

Jack Graham ’16 prefers reddit to 4chan because the community is better, he said.

“I heard about reddit in eighth grade, and now I visit it at least once a day,” Graham said. “I get most of the news I keep up with from links posted there.”

Graham first visited 4chan three or four years ago and heard the community was rude and malicious.

He agrees with that opinion and rarely visits 4chan anymore.

He is also interested in memes, he said.

“Most people think memes are exclusively an image with Impact font captions,” Graham said. “That is not the case. Memes are very diverse.”

Rickrolling, the practice of unexpectedly sending someone a link to a video of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up,” is a non-image meme that began on 4chan in 2007. Graham said that sending a video of WWE wrestler John Cena is a more modern version of Rickrolling.

“Memes mostly come from places like 4chan, and many 4chan memes never leave the site,” Graham said. “[Popular image meme] Pepe the Frog had been on 4chan for a long time before it was picked up by other websites. If you come across anything that you think might be a meme, you can usually find an explanation of its origin on knowyourmeme.com.”

Edmund* ’16 mainly visits reddit, but he often reads the 4chan subreddit, where popular content from 4chan is reposted.

“I sometimes go on parts of 4chan, but not the popular parts,” Edmund said. “Like I go on the cooking board.”

Edmund especially enjoys “greentext stories,” humorous stories posted on 4chan and named after the green text color in which they appear.

In addition to the 4chan subreddit, Edmund subscribes to several subreddits involving video games, including subreddits for the Binding of Isaac, Team Fortress 2 and Civilization, three of his favorite games.

He also frequents PC Master Race, a satirical subreddit where users poke fun at console gamers and praise PC gaming.

“I go on reddit when I’m bored, especially when I’m at school and can’t play video games without killing my [laptop] battery,” Edmund said.

He also browses AskReddit.

“I really like the rice thread,” Edmund said. “The one where the guy is like, ‘What food is good with rice?’ and people said things that would taste terrible with rice, and he just eats food with rice and posted reviews of it.”

Edmund doesn’t remember when he first heard about reddit, but he feels it has become so mainstream that almost everyone now knows about it.

“Reddit is everywhere now,” Edmund said. “You hear about people on reddit, you see people on reddit, and eventually you go on reddit.”

*Names have been changed.

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