CivicScience Tech Lens Series: From microchips to macro trends — in this series we explore our rapidly evolving relationship with devices, social media, and all things digital.
Remember the GameStop saga of 2021, when users of a Reddit forum collectively drove up the price of the retailer’s shares? Today, Reddit is back in headlines – its forum “antiwork” has exploded amidst the ‘Great Resignation’ and massive upheaval in the job market. The company is also expected to file for an IPO this year.
As both a major social media player and a cultural phenomenon, Reddit certainly deserves a closer look. CivicScience checked in on the platform’s overall usership and key traits that define the pandemic-era “Redditor” (Reddit user). In a recent survey polling more than 6,400 Americans ages 13 and older, 23% say they have experience using Reddit.com, which can also be accessed via the Reddit app. Close to 10% of respondents are planning on using Reddit in the future.
It’s likely that many of these users hold Reddit accounts required to post, comment, and vote on Reddit content. In fact, 41% of people who have used Reddit.com are regular active users, with 17% visiting the site/app daily and 24% visiting weekly.
As a social media platform, Reddit is similar to YouTube in that it has been able to capture audiences across age brackets, although usership drops off steeply among those ages 55 and older. Also like YouTube, heavy users skew both younger (Gen Z and Millennials) and male. Well over one-third of Gen Z and close to 30% of Millennial cohorts visit the site daily or weekly.
In other words, the platform can be seen as a part of everyday life for one-in-three Americans under the age of 35, who may engage with any number of its 100K+ moderated user-generated forums (subreddits) on a vast array of topics – from hobbies, to self-help, to breaking news. As one of the longest-running social media platforms out there (launched in 2005), Reddit has managed to stay relevant among younger audiences, which is no easy feat.
Big Trust in Big Tech and News Media
One might assume the appeal is partially related to being able to maintain a higher level of anonymity on Reddit versus other social media apps, which again bears similarities to YouTube. However, survey results suggest that’s probably not the case – heavy (daily/weekly) and moderate (monthly) Reddit users in fact have significantly higher levels of trust in big tech to protect their personal identifying data compared to infrequent or non-users.
Heavy and moderate users are also much more likely to trust the news media overall to deliver unbiased news, and to get their news from a diverse array of sources. Interestingly, both national and local newspapers are popular among members of the Reddit community, whereas broadcast news is more trusted among infrequent and non-users. Here, we are most likely witnessing the generational divide between traditional TV news sources and digital sources, with Reddit serving as a valuable information source for many young people today.
Reddit’s ‘r/antiwork’ subreddit seems to have struck a nerve in today’s climate of plummeting job satisfaction, record-setting numbers of job quits, and more people re-evaluating their work-life balance. The forum has grown over the years to 1.4 million members strong and features content ranging anywhere from disgruntled employee rants to theoretical debates about a work-free future. (If you’re looking for more on the concept of “antiwork,” this current Dictionary.com entry does a nice job of explaining it.)
As of now, CivicScience data indicate the majority of adult Reddit users are still employed – close to one-third are working remotely as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey results also show adult Reddit users are less likely to have experienced job losses (or job quits) than non-users. However, they are more likely to be working reduced hours and earning less than before the pandemic when compared to non-users.
Interestingly, employed Reddit intenders are far more likely than either Reddit users or uninterested non-users to say they are unhappy in their current jobs – 60% are either somewhat or very unhappy. The antiwork subreddit may indeed be a landing page for many dissatisfied and potential future Redditors.
Sitting somewhere in between the mainstream and subculture, Reddit may be seen as innocuous to many and still unknown to some – but this long-standing social media platform is an important player on the scene, with room to keep growing. Want more insights? Check out this past blog post for more fascinating quirks about Reddit users.