Last December our sewer backed up. We were digging around in the pipes trying to figure out why, and we pulled out a weird spool. While we tried to guess what it could be, our 20-year-old son Mark snapped a photo with his phone and posted it to the whatisthisthing subreddit.

In minutes he had an answer from one of the million-plus people in the group. Mark’s quick solution made me realize his generation might be onto something.

Only 7% of Reddit’s users are age 50 and older
Tech Junkie

Only 7% of Reddit’s users are age 50 and older, according to Tech Junkie.  

Reddit, which calls itself “the front page of the Internet,” is a collection of 1.2 million (so far) subreddits—communities or categories dedicated to a specific topic.

They start with r/ followed by a name. Broad-based subreddits like r/worldnews can have many millions of members. Niche subreddits are much smaller. For example r/lava has 1,200 members. 

You can curate your list of subreddits based on your interests—health, money, sports, hobbies, politics, and more.

Anyone can set up a subreddit, and people who set up subreddits choose their moderators.

Trent Hankinson of the band Aqua Seca finds Reddit indispensable as a musician. “Reddit is amazing,” he says. “The site contains so much information on software, hardware, where to tour, when to tour, and the ability to find band members.”

James Cobb used Reddit to learn more about sleep issues when he was starting his blog, the Dream Recovery System: “I had some idea due to my work as an emergency department RN. I had some other perspective due to seminars and conferring with physicians. Beyond all that, the Reddit r/sleep provided a way to round out that experience,” he says.

It’s easy to give Reddit a look 

You can give Reddit a try without joining, and you can join with a user name that doesn’t identify you. Look over Reddit’s rules (reddiquette) before you start posting or commenting. Many rules are variations of, “Don’t be a jerk.”

Once you get started, you can choose the subreddits you’d like to join. Each subreddit will also have its own list of rules. A lot of subreddits ban spam, offensive content, self-promotion, and off-topic posts, for example.

Shea Drake, content strategist with Business.org, recommends two places you might want to start—r/todayilearned and r/popular. “You can also see the comments and how people generally discuss things,” Drake says.

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You might want to ease into Reddit. “I would advise any new users to ‘lurk’ on Reddit for a while just reading and voting on posts before posting anything,” says Jason Simms, principal at Simms PR, who uses Reddit to help increase the reach of his clients’ news stories.

Want to connect with fans of your favorite TV show or sports team and chat? Try r/ChernobylTV if you found the HBO series fascinating. And r/redsox is where 57,800 fans of my favorite baseball team hang out. On r/aww, you’ll find nothing but cuteness. 

“Even in the best of groups, there can be jerks. If you come across one, don’t engage, just ignore them.”
Shea Drake
Business.org

“It can be particularly satisfying to read and participate in discussions on Reddit about interests which no one in your life shares,” Simms says. “Unlike Facebook and Google, which tend to be associated with our real identities, it’s very easy to be anonymous on Reddit. So you can geek out to your heart’s content without anyone you know observing you.”

Your home page will feature new posts from the subreddits you subscribe to. Reddit’s “popular” page features whatever is most popular on all of Reddit.

People can upvote or downvote a post to influence its popularity, and can also comment on posts. The comments can also get upvotes and downvotes. 

Just about anything can trend. While I was researching this article the most popular post is under r/AskReddit, asking people to share stories about irritating noises. Almost 19,000 people have commented. 

The downside? Trolls and jerks

Like life, Reddit is full of people with a range of opinions and expertise. “As is the case with any other website, Reddit can be full of trolls, liars, deceivers, and people that are plain old wrong. Some of the things you will read on Reddit should be taken with a pinch of salt,” says Ray Walsh, digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy.

Don’t like what someone says? It might be best to let it go. “Even in the best of groups, there can be jerks. If you come across one, don’t engage, just ignore them.

They feed on attention, but they will go away if they’re not getting the reactions or engagements they want,” says Drake. 

And as for that weird spool we found in our sewer?

Reddit crowdsourced it as a roll of plumber’s soldering tape, which probably fell down a drain when the house was being constructed. Mystery solved.

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