I’ve turned to Reddit as an alternative to Facebook, mainly due to concerns about the rampant privacy intrusion that essentially defines Facebook’s modus operandi and revenue model.

Reddit is a hybrid news-sharing site and discussion forum frequented by at least six percent of the Internet’s users.

That’s a decent number of people.

Members of Reddit create niche-based communities. In those communities, they post links to media created elsewhere. Redditors can also add shorter pieces written directly in “text posts” on the site. Other members can vote “up” (approval) or “down” (disapproval) on all posts, creating a dynamic flow of popularity-ranked material; the flow changes as frequently as users post new items and others vote on them.

It makes sense, then, that if you want feedback on a story or other creative work, you might benefit from posting it on Reddit with a request for comment. That’s exactly what I did while working on a variety of fiction-writing techniques over the past two years.

Follow The Upvotes? How Conformity of Opinion is Quietly Crowdsourced

Sitting here today while playing with ideas for a new story, I recognized a dimension of the hidden issue that pervades all communities: all communities subtly indocrinate their members into certain belief systems. That, in a sense, is what gives any group its feeling of being “us” rather than “them”.

On Reddit, you can see that phenomenon in the distinctive type of humour used there versus, for example, Reddit’s arch-enemy, 4chan (or really x-chan considering the number of variants online). Inevitable silliness of Internet-based tribal keyboard warfare aside, the two communities have a very different “feeling” to them, partly based on how they are designed. Facebook (enforced fake authenticity via “sharing”) and Tumblr (scrapbooking and socal bookmarking) have their own approaches to community as well.

Specifically on Reddit, there are a number of science fiction-related communities. Each community on Reddit is called a “subreddit”, or “sub”. The scifi subs range from large to small, and the largest has over 200,000 readers. Although the reader numbers are misleading as to how many people actively participate, there is still a sizeable group who are online at any given time.

At first, it can be difficult to detect the fact that subreddits have their own set of rarely articulated rules governing what’s generally liked and disliked. It may seem like a strange idea, given Reddit’s illusion of “direct democracy” via the voting system. Considering the herd instinct that largely dominates human nature, though, the social reality of groupthink seems to have merely insinuated itself into the digital medium.

Don’t Try To Build A World on Reddit

The example that came to mind while writing today is that of “world-building.” Fictionwriters know this principle. Any story that ventures beyond fan fiction will have to establish an imaginary world for the reader to enter — a world that is in some way more fascinating than their own. The fictional story world suspends the reader’s sense of time and space within its carefully constructed realms of enhanced possibility.

If you seek feedback on Reddit, though, beware of the group consensus that all forms of world-building are bad, and therefore are easy targets for criticism. You can sometimes find conversations in which random users try to (literally) score points by snarking that a novel “started slow, with a lot of ‘world-building’, but it got better as it started to pick up speed afterward.” Even though this is obviously the case in the majority of stories — especially ones that project the reader into a detailed universe — Redditors have made a trendy talking point out of symptomatizing world-building into some kind of writerly deficiency.

Also beware of Internet Attention-Deficit Disorder, which seems to be the norm on Reddit. Most of the written works posted there are fan fiction, even if the subreddit’s self-descrption claims otherwise. Visuals tend to be clickbait images and videos intended to incite a maximum number of upvotes. This means that the overall atmosphere is “click, look, skim, repeat”. Sufferers of Internet A.D.D. will rarely take the time required to critique or even comment meaningfully on a new fictional piece. The exceptions are pleasant, yet exceedingly rare.

Reddit can be useful as a means of gauging the average person’s kneejerk opinion of your work within a chosen niche. If you’re looking for feedback that goes beyond “I took a quick look and got the gist”, other avenues are necessary for eliciting worthwhile review and comment. In fact, I’m presently creating one such avenue based the experiences with Reddit and other social media platforms; there will be much more to say and show about that in the near future.