With plenty of uninterrupted hours ahead of me, I’m in the perfect condition to begin chipping away at the growing list of tasks I have to do. Then suddenly, my phone’s screen illuminates with a text message.
After quickly responding, I nudge the “home” button, minimizing the message page, revealing my home screen. There are so many avenues of blissful procrastination to take.
I open Reddit — a deliberate choice. Though I used to be purely an Instagram procrastinator, I’ve noticed a great difference in the way I feel after spending time on Reddit instead.
Many of us spend time on social media platforms like Instagram, a place where we’re expected to stay connected to our favorite celebrities, artists, friends, family and even influencers, many of whom are people we don’t know why we’re following in the first place but cannot imagine our feeds without.
As I scroll, I come across images of the aforementioned people adventuring, accomplishing goals or just looking amazing. Rather than experiencing a sense of connection with the people whose posts populate my feed, though, I can’t help but feel like a mere observer in their lives.
But the owners of these pages are not culpable for this disconnect — Instagram’s infrastructure is essentially tailored for it. Who wouldn’t want to be perceived as “living their best life?” Indeed, the “selfie era” gives people the capacity to directly control how they’re perceived, a power not yet experienced by any prior generation.
The problem with spaces like Instagram is that they aren’t “social” media in the truest sense of the term. In some respects, yes, people are up-to-date on the highlight reel of the lives of the people they f0llow. But in these online places, we often miss out on the joys of empathetically connecting with others.
On the opposite side of the social media coin, then, is Reddit. Unlike Instagram, it’s probably the app’s anonymity that’s responsible for fostering connectedness. Users operate under aliases and don’t typically give out personal information.
Though complete anonymity is not the best in all cases, users participate without the pressure of presenting a mediated, improved image and are instead able to gather around points of commonality, shared interests and shared experiences.
Whether that be a love of cute animal videos, an obsession with a true-crime comedy podcast or a desire to gaze upon photos that look like they were plucked straight from a Wes Anderson film, Reddit is home to communities — subreddits — where people engage with one another about things that make them similar, rather than push out content meant to distinguish their online personas.
There are subreddit communities out there like r/explainlikeimfive, where genuinely curious people are open about what they don’t know and receive easily digestible answers to questions, no matter how complicated the subject matter. I have encountered a wide array of concepts on this subreddit, from the biological underpinnings of how and why Toxic Shock Syndrome occurs so quickly to how exactly fiber optic internet works. The feeling of, “Yeah, how does that thing actually work?” that washes over me as I read the title of a post is both validating and exciting.
Another subreddit is r/AmItheAsshole, which circulates posts where authors seek guidance on how to feel after an unsettling interaction (many users describe their experiences in great detail). While reading the stories, sometimes one can’t help but empathize with the speaker, feel their sense of mildly guilty uncertainty and find a sense of validation from realizing that others are also imperfect.
There’s also a subreddit called r/unpopularopinions, where people share opinions they themselves hold or find interesting (but may not be widely shared), and other users engage in dialogue about that belief in the comments. This conversation is often much more thought-provoking and entertaining than some of the typical dialogue seen under Instagram posts.
With the ever-present pressures to perform well in our daily lives, why spend the few free moments we have distantly witnessing others “appear” well? Maybe the next time you’re confronted with an opportunity to procrastinate, give Reddit a try.
Hannah Avalos PO ’21 is one of TSL’s pop culture columnists. She’s an English major and recent transfer student who loves creative writing, picking out which earrings to wear and finishing the books she starts reading.