The Internet by nature has always allowed people around the world to connect to an unprecedented degree. One of the biggest contributors to the Internet’s community of the last decade is Reddit, a social networking service that allows people to browse and comment on user-submitted content. Registered members up-vote or down-vote content, pushing the most popular content to the main page for every casual user to see. Content is also divided into areas of interest called “subreddits.” Senior Wade O’Dear compared Reddit to a network of blogs.
“Think of Reddit as a hub of different, specific blogs,” said O’Dear, who has been browsing the site for over two years. “You can subscribe to those specific blogs that you enjoy. It’s a hub for things that you are interested in.”
According to the website, nearly 200 million unique visitors from 186 different countries viewed over 8,000 subreddits in September. According to O’Dear, the variety of users and content is part of what makes the site so enjoyable.
“You can get what you want out of it,” O’Dear said. “You can be in it for video games, you can be in it for news . . . I can go to one subreddit and see really intelligent questions receive really intelligent answers, or I can go to another and see complete idiots.”
One of the ways Reddit has built their international community is through their “redditgifts” program. The program pairs strangers from around the world into a giant gift exchange. Each participant receives a list of interests from someone else to send a gift to and in turn receiving a gift of their own. The participants then post pictures of the gifts they receive online. O’Dear has participated in three of these gift exchanges, and he says the program offers users the chance to connect with strangers in a special way.
“You have the chance to make someone’s day,” O’Dear said. “They set a $20-30 dollar limit, but many, many people – if not the majority – go above and beyond that.”
According to O’Dear, the gift exchanges also highlight the community that makes Reddit unique.
“It’s a community of people who genuinely want to do good and be excellent to each other,” O’Dear said. “That’s what I see in Reddit: a group of people trying and succeeding to come together under one idea.”
To celebrate the holidays, Reddit is currently hosting the biggest gift exchange of the year: Secret Santa. According to the website, 90,000 people from 160 countries participated in Reddit’s Secret Santa last year. According to ABC News, one of those participants was Bill Gates, who donated a cow through Heifer International in his partner’s name. He also sent his partner a plush cow doll and a book with personal note.
As of Dec. 1, more than 200,000 people had registered for the 2014 Secret Santa. As people’s gifts arrive, they can be viewed at www.redditgifts.com.