From incel paradise to mainstream media: on the evolution of Reddit

By Kaitlin Dunn
Lifestyle Editor

Reddit: you know it, you love it, you may deplore it. The platform, which was founded in 2005, boasts thousands of online discussion communities called “subreddits” or “subs.” Currently, the platform has almost 48 million monthly active users, according to Statista.

In its early days, Reddit was seen as a social media and news outlet for young men, and the statistics hold true to that image.

According to the PEW Research Center, “both Reddit users in general and users who get news on the site tend to be young, male, and to self-identify as liberal at higher rates than the overall public.”

With young men being the most prominent demographic of Reddit users comes the website’s most prominent negative association: the incel.

Prior to Nov. 9, 2017, when it was banned, there was a subreddit for men who called themselves “involuntarily celibate,” or “incels.”

“The 40,000-strong ‘Incels’ community was nominally a ‘support group’ for people who lack romantic relationships and sex. They are involuntarily celibate or ‘incel,’” Guardian writer Olivia Solon said.

While it began as a support group, the subreddit later focused on users who appeared to hate women who rejected them and men who were not part of the group.

The subreddit’s moderators went as far as highly discouraging women from joining the group and banning users who argued there were “as many female incels in the same situation as male incels,” according to Solon.

This story’s past brings us to the question of where Reddit stands today.

With subreddits like r/lululemon and r/FundieSnarkUncensoried boasting hundreds of thousands of members, it seems like Reddit evolved past its former reputation as an “incel” paradise.

Many of the most popular subreddits lack connections to the website’s incel past. Subreddits like r/AITA let individuals ask for outside opinions on their moral dilemmas, and r/TwoSentenceHorror creates popular creative writing content that get shared on sites like Twitter and TikTok.

It’s fair to say that Reddit was never unpopular, rather its consumer base has shifted.

According to marketing strategist Georgi Todorov, while the site is still predominately male, the percentage of female users has gone up to approximately 40% of the overall users.

The site has also worked towards fostering a larger community.

On April Fool’s Day 2022, the site opened up the subreddit r/Places.

According to Forbes contributor Jack Kelly, “Reddit users collectively made a massive collaborative piece of art that became a viral phenomenon. The open canvas allowed members to post a single, tiny, colored pixel every five minutes. More than 72 million tiles were placed by over 6 million users, at the rate of 2.5 million tiles placed per hour.”

With a community-driven platform that allows you to interact with users with similar interests to you, you don’t even have to seek out a community or hone your feed like you do on platforms such as Twitter and TikTok.

This also means that the platform is great for those who don’t like aspects of other forms of social media such as Instagram or Facebook, which focus on images and likes as key features.

“Reddit is not one of those social networking apps which encourage practices of a constant show-off that can be seen on many other social networking apps. The profile of Redditors can only show you their earlier threads as well as their ranking, excluding other details like a business CV relationship status,” Galaxy Marketing said.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Featured Photo Caption: In certain instances, subreddit demographics vary drastically from the overall Reddit population. For example, r/lululemon is composed primarily of younger women.

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