Belonging and Neo-Tribalism on Social Media Site Reddit
Social media site reddit describes itself as the ‘front page’ of the internet. The site’s 274 million monthly users share, discuss, ‘up-vote’ and ‘down-vote’ a wide array of content found on the internet: news, pictures of cats, deep philosophical discussions, scientific breakthroughs, pornography, advice columns, GIFs of people falling over—reddit has it all. The most ‘up-voted’ content rises to the top of the site, while less current and less interesting content ‘sinks’. The site is divided into more than 10 thousand active (and many more less active) ‘subreddits’, framed as communities organised around a particular topic. In this chapter, by looking at four case studies, I push beyond the contentious descriptor of reddit as ‘a type of online community’ to consider the systems of belonging on reddit (via everyday labour) as more akin to the temporally situated, purposive neo-tribes theorised by Maffesoli (1996) and Bennett (1999) Reddit, and many of the site’s subreddits, operate on a very specific shared set of languages and conventions, rules, expectations, and rituals. Reddit neo-tribes can crystallise over time (as per Robards and Bennett), but they are largely ephemeral, readily aligning with Maffesoli’s (1996) original conceptualisation.
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