Unleashing Reddit on My Thoughts

by Dan Walsh

What if they hate me?

I’ve posted a new article on this blog almost everyday for the past 4 months. It has become a collection of my innermost thoughts and points of view. Sometimes I didn’t even know I had these thoughts until I started writing about the topic. They’re often raw and emotional – sometimes half-baked theories. I have only shared these posts with a few people. People I know and care about, and who I know care about me. That all changed this week when I posted to Reddit.

Reddit is a tricky site. Overall, the community is more positive than those on sites like Youtube. Redditors don’t typically insult people just for the fun of it. They don’t use the word “gay” as a profanity and they don’t make frequent allusions to the Nazi regime. They keep it classy – until they don’t. Redditors are notorious for turning into a pitchfork wielding mob when their sensibilities have been offended. So it was with great trepidation that I submitted Give a Boy a Sword to reddit.com/r/zelda. I also submitted The Untapped Potential of the Basis Health Band, and Wearable Games to other applicable subreddits. Give a Boy a Sword was the most stressful because it was first.

In many ways, this post was a fantasy about a fantasy. It was my vision for a remake of one of the most iconic videogame franchises ever created. I was vulnerable in this post. What if the redditors hated it? What if they invalidated my feelings and said all of my ideas were dumb? What if they ran through my entire catalog of posts like deranged looters and ripped everything from the walls? What if they torched the place to cover their tracks?!

I was anxious. I had the same feeling I get right before I go on stage to give a speech. Who knew posting to Reddit and public speaking were the same fear? “They’re all going to laugh at you!” I had no idea I would feel like this!

I knew I was playing with fire when I posted to Reddit. I also knew that I needed to make the post. Ideas are nothing if they stay stowed away in the dark corners of our personal cellars. I needed to test myself. I needed to test my opinions. I was scared to let go, and worried that Reddit comments would alter my writing. In an unconscious effort to appeal to the horde I might change my topics, dilute my opinions, or keep authentic feelings to myself.

Despite my anxiety, nothing horrible happened. I got about an extra 1,000 hits to the post, about 10 comments on Reddit, and zero comments on the post itself. The comments on Reddit were evenly divided between positive and negative reactions. Some comments verged on trolling, but most were civil. No one visited my other posts or metaphorically ripped the curtains down. No fires.

The positive comments where nice for my ego, but I learned most from the negative comments. I was sometimes tempted to write defensive responses but I vowed to internalize and assess them first. After a bit of cool down time I realized they didn’t matter. They weren’t worth a response or any emotional energy, and the cogent comments revealed cracks in my argument. I could make my writing stronger by addressing these issues – if I wanted to spend the time. But I don’t think I do. I don’t think I care enough about what semi-anonymous strangers say. I’m not writing to appease them. I’m writing for myself and the people I care about. Strangely enough, I’ve walked away from this experience with a new-found sense of apathy and personal assurance.

I realize now, as I write this post, that this wasn’t a test of whether my ideas were right or wrong. There is no right or wrong. This was a test to see if I could stand up to criticism. This was a test to see if I would stand by my opinions in the face of opposition.

Turns out I do.