For this textual analysis I have chosen the Reddit (reddit.com) community. Reddit is a “social news site … which allow[s] users to re-publish and vote on the news articles they deem fit for their own consumption” (Wasike, 2011). In addition to news, Reddit also features entertainment content, including visual “memes” (photos with ironic/insulting/inspirational captions, usually not created by the owner or creator of the photo). Reddit content is entirely user-generated, and users are welcome to create their own communities. As Reddit has over six trillion pages and over 8,000 sub-communities (About reddit, 2014), I have chosen to narrow my analysis to the “About” areas of the community–About page, Redditt_101, Rediquette– and to a specific Reddit sub-community–r/Funny. I propose that Reddit users have created an ethno-projected community with a clearly identifiable projected identity and cultural expression, particularly through the use of language and community rules, and in doing so, create an online culture that transcends the offline cultural backgrounds of individual users.
Offline cultures are often identified by a shared language. Reddit has its own language that allows for the overarching Reddit community to connect across subreddit community cultures. Community members are called redditors, individual communities are called subreddits, and rules of behavior and cultural values of the site is called reddiquette (About reddit, 2014; Reddit_101, 2014; Reddiquette, 2014). Subreddits have a unique naming convention with “r/” in front of the name, such as r/Funny, r/Gadgets, and r/Documentaries (Reddit, 2014). Not only does the use of these terms and naming conventions create a shared cultural identity (“I am a redditor”) it also reinforces the user-generated nature of the site, as users are considered “editors” of content and community. Communities also receive a name, subreddits, creating the sense that even with the tremendous number of individual communities (8, 193 as of November 14, 2014) (Reddit, 2014), all communities are united in a sense of “oneness” (McNeill, 2013) through the great umbrella culture of Reddit identity.
The Reddit community is an example of an online cultural community that has created its own cultural identity through formal and informal rules. These social groups become ethno-projected communities as the group create “a set of formal and informal controls that guide how to interact (informal controls) as well as how one must act (formal controls)” (p.60). Reddit is proudly user-generated. As described in the Reddit_101 (2014), “This site is made up of ‘sub’reddits, which are all their own communities. Every single post you see on this site belongs to its own community, with its own set of users, and with its own set of rules.” Community members agree to follow the rules of the communities they join, agreeing to follow proper reddiquette, the “informal expression of the values of many redditors, as written by redditors themselves” (Reddiquette, 2014).
An examination of a subreddit, in this case r/Funny (https://www.reddit.com/r/funny/), shows how this cultural identity is realized through profile creation, formal rules, communicative structures. r/Funny has over seven million subscribers. An invitation to those new to the community connects to the reddiquette page, and the community moderators have “pinned” (permanently positioned) a post describing at length the meaning of the primary rule of the community: “All posts must make an attempt at humor. Success or failure of said attempt is immaterial” (funny_mod, 2014). This post directs users to the 15 rules of the sidebar relate to posting etiquette as well as to the specific theme of the forum, with an emphasis on avoiding offense language or self-promotional posts. The sidebar concludes with the rule “Hate speech and bigotry will be removed at the moderators’ discretion” (r/Funny, 2014).
From this content we see the process of interaction that occurs within the culture and how members participate in this culture. The pinned post reveals the participation of users in policing the forum, as some report violators and others dispute editorial decisions. Community members agree to follow the formal rules of this cultural community (attempt at humor) with the understanding that the community or moderators can remove violators. This cultural value of r/Funny, “funny” redditors, is meant to surpass any other cultural identity, including ethnic, religious, or political background. The culture has refined the notion of funny, indicating that “interesting” is not enough, but actual execution of humor is not required as “success or failure of said attempt is immaterial” (funny_mod, 2014).
This brief textual analysis of the Reddit community reveals evidence of “a process of mainstreamed cyber-resonance that defies or alters the identity formed from contact with culturally mainstream societies and agencies of socialization in the real world” (p.55). Through the use of culturally-specific language (redditors, subreddits), formal and informal rules, and community user policing, the Reddit community and its 8000 sub-communities create a space where members defy/alter offline identities to participate in this specific ethno-projected community. As illustrated by the r/Funny subreddit, cultural expression must transcend that of an offline cultural identity, particularly as relates to culturally accepted humor, and must be expressed in terms of the rules of r/Funny culture. Users who violate the rules risk admonition by other community members or expulsion from the community. Thus, the Reddit community, chooses to represent itself by the very nature of its existence, a user-generated community, maintained and policed by the mutually-agreed upon expressions of the members of the culture.
About reddit. (2014). Reddit.com. Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/about/
funny_mod [Screen name]. (2014). We’ve had an experiment running for a few months. We now have a new rule on the basis of that experiment. All posts must make some attempt at humor. Reddit.com Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/2ke2nz/weve_had_an_experiment_running_for_a_few_months/
r/Funny. (2014). Reddit.com. Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/r/funny/
McNeill, S. (2013). Concepts in new media: Online communication, culture, and community. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.
Reddiquette. (2014). Reddit.com. Retrieved from http://www.reddit.com/wiki/reddiquette
Reddit_101. (2014). Reddit.com. Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/wiki/reddit_101
Wasike, B. (2011). Framing Social News Sites: An Analysis of the Top Ranked Stories on Reddit and Digg. Southwestern Mass Communication Journal, 27(1), 57-67.