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What Is Reddit and How to Use It: The Definitive Guide

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There are many specialized discussion boards on the internet, but if you are looking for news, debate, answers or just fun about practically anything you can image, Reddit is the place.

Reddit claims to be "the front page to the Internet", and after more than a decade enjoying it, I have to agree. Its users seem to have the ability to detect trends and news before anyone else, and then comment on them, often with extraordinary wit or illuminating knowhow. If you're not familiar with the site, here's a guide to everything about Reddit, how best to enjoy it and how to participate.

What's Reddit?

Reddit is basically a large group of forums in which registered users can talk about almost anything you can imagine, from news, to pop culture, to technology, to comics, to film, to literature, to the weirdest things in the world, including Not Safe For Work stuff.  

What's a subreddit?

Those specialized forums are called "subreddits," which are referred to as r/"topic" (example: r/gadgets). There are more than 138,000 active subreddits. You can read and participate in all of them freely except private subreddits, which require an admission process. You can also subscribe to the subreddits, so their most popular posts appear on your personalized Reddit front page.

How many people use Reddit?

The latest figure — from March 2019 — is 234 million active unique users, which makes it the No. 6 most-visited site in the United States and No. 21 in the world, according to Wikipedia.

By the way, Reddit users call themselves "redditors."

According to the latest subscriber figures, the top five most popular subreddits — excluding the No. 1 general r/announcements — are r/funny with 25.3 million subscribers, r/AskReddit (23.5 million), r/gaming (22.8 million), r/pics (22.3 million) and r/science (21.8 million). 

But with more than 138,000 active Reddits, the list doesn't stop there. Some of my favorite mainstream ones are r/gadgets, with 15.4 million subscribers; r/todayilearned (21.1 million); r/movies (21 million); and r/Futurology (13 million). The Futurology site is not dedicated to tarot card readers but to news and developments that affect the future of humanity. 

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Other of my not-so-mainstream favorites are r/oddlysatisfying, which features videos and photos that are oddly satisfying, indeed; r/CrappyDesign, dedicated to the many crappy designs that surround us; r/Retrogaming; and r/EarthPorn, which has stunning images of our Pale Blue Dot, not actual porn. 

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And that's just the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg. The subreddits go through every hobby and topic imaginable all the way to the most extremely strange things like r/wolveswithwatermelons (which is exactly that, although it includes dogs, too), r/birdswitharms (people photoshopping arms on birds), or r/dragonsf*ckingcars (don't worry, it is safe for work unless you are a dragon working in an office full of dragons).

Can I create my own subreddit?

If you are registered, yes.

How can I find subreddits?

There's a search field at the top of the page. Just enter any topic you want and you will likely find it. If you are looking for NSFW topics, you will need to be registered and activate NSFW topic in your settings.

How do I submit to Reddit, comment and vote?

Reddit is open to anyone to navigate and read freely. You can also register and become more involved.

Registered users can make submissions to any of the public subreddits. They can also join the subreddits, an action that will affect how Reddit's front page will look for you (more on this later).

They can also comment on other people's submissions by just clicking on the open comment field right under the submission. In the same way, you can reply to people's comments by clicking reply.

And finally, registered users can upvote or downvote any of the submissions, which is the way that Reddit makes submissions surface to the front page.

How does the front page work?

Reddit has a front page in which certain submissions are featured, thanks to different algorithms. This front page has different tabs.

If you are not registered, the default tab is "Hot," which is basically a view of the submissions with the highest scores over a period of time. The score is determined by subtracting the downvotes from the upvotes.

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If you are registered, then the default tab is called "Best." It features the most-voted posts from all the subreddits but it takes into account other things, like the submissions in which you have spent time before or the subreddits you have joined. This is a personalized view that will also eliminate things that you have already clicked through the next time you load the front page. This is done to ensure that the Best page remains fresh. 

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There are other tabs, like "Rising" — which features posts that are new and are getting upvotes quick — and "Controversial" — which uses an algorithm to determine which posts are the subject of conflicting opinions by looking at the fluctuation of the upvotes and downvotes.

What can I submit to Reddit?

There are four basic submissions: link, image, video and text. All of the submissions require a title, which Reddit encourages to be interesting but devoid of hyperbole and self-promotion.

Are there any Reddit rules?

As a general rule, reddiquette dictates that you should be a civilized person and remember that there's always a human being at the other side of the screen. Of course, no self-promotion or spam is allowed. Just be mindful about what you do, try to be respectful of others, and you will be fine.

Do subreddits have extra rules?

Yes, beyond the logical etiquette, each subreddit has its own rules that you should read and abide by when posting or commenting. Some subreddits — like r/pics — may only accept image submissions and no external links, for example. Others will require you to be more descriptive in your posts, like r/science.

What's a "flair"?

Some subreddits will require you to apply a "flair" to your submission, which roughly identifies what it is about. Example: The subreddit r/gadgets has flairs like Phones, Desktop/Laptop, TV/Projectors, Music or Transportation, among others.

Do upvotes have any other effect, and what is karma?

As people upvote or downvote your posts and comments, these get added to your "karma." The higher karma you have, the better regarded you may be by the community.

Can you lose karma on Reddit?

Any time someone votes negatively to one of your post, you lose points on your global karma. But you shouldn't worry to much. The point of Reddit is not to accumulate karma points but to learn, have fun, waste time or add to the conversation in a constructive or funny way.

Can I get banned from Reddit?

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Yes, you can definitely get banned from Reddit if you are a spammer or just a terrible person who spreads hate and negativity. It won't ban you from reading, but from participating. And once you are banned, you are done for good. Again, just be mindful and play according to the rules.

Can I get banned from a subreddit?

Yes, moderators can ban you for not following the rules. There are different kinds of moderators. Some are more strict than others, but any moderator will quickly ban you if you don't follow the rules on a regular basis.

Can I get unbanned?

You can always contact the moderators and ask. If you tell them you didn't read the rules or you didn't know about something, they may reinstate you. But there are no rules for this. It's at the discretion of the moderators.

Is there any specific Reddit lingo?

Yes, there is. Aside from the usual internet acronyms like As Far As I Know or In My Opinion, Reddit has a lot of specific acronyms and expressions. Here are some useful ones: 

AMA: Ask Me Anything. People — generally those who are famous or have done something of interest — use this acronym on a submission to have a dialogue with redditors. There's also a subreddit dedicated to AMAs in which everyone from Barack Obama to NASA scientists to Bill Gates (who often participates) answers questions from users. To get an idea, here's a top 10 of best AMAs ,or just go to the subreddit here.

ELI5: Explain Like I'm 5 (years old). If you have a question about a complex subject, use this to ask it. There's a subreddit for this, too.

EDIT and ETA: Edit and Edited To Add are expressions added to comments when people edit them.

TL;DR: Too Long; Didn't Read. This is used at the end of long text posts or comments to criticize an article or comment as being too long to read. It can also be used to provide a summary of the main point of the text in case people don't have time to read the entire thing. 

Can people see my activity in Reddit?

People can see your posts and your comments. They can't see your likes or your subscriptions. Users can also follow you.

Are there any mobile apps for Reddit?

Yes. In fact, the experience is much better when using the apps on both smartphones and tablets. There are official apps for Android or iOS. If you want a different experience, you can try any of the third-party apps for iOS and Android.

Anything else I should know?

Nah. This is all you need. Just jump in, start exploring, and get ready to spend hours going down the Reddit rabbit hole. It's the best and most interesting fun you can have on the internet today.

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.