Reddit calls itself the front page of the internet, but according to a lot of (former) users, the online social media platform can definitely be a very toxic and mean place sometimes. Many people don’t feel welcome there at all, claim they’re being harassed by other users, or mention certain communities (grouped in subreddits) that tend to bring out the worst in people.
Why is Reddit Such a Toxic and Mean Place Sometimes?
You have to give Reddit credit – it’s one of the sites that has been around for ages – for longer than Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok – and is still one of the most visited websites today. Its claim that it is ‘the front page of the internet’ definitely holds up, but the website also has a bit of a reputation that proceeds it. Reddit is even banned in Indonesia and some other countries have also decided to block Reddit, although the toxic reputation isn’t the only reason for restricting access to the platform.
Why are people saying that Reddit is toxic, you might think?
Well, the problem mostly lies within a couple of specific subcommunities – or as the website likes to call them – subreddits.
On Facebook or Instagram, it’s the rule (or at the very least it is expected) that you provide your real name and/or a real photograph of yourself. On Reddit – anonymity is the rule, and sometimes being anonymous can definitely lead to people behaving less conforming and more toxic.
The main reason why people on Reddit can be mean and toxic is simply that they’re hiding behind a keyboard and can remain fairly anonymously.
One thing is for sure: Reddit being toxic is definitely a major reason why people quit and delete their Reddit accounts.
Of course, this topic can be quite sensitive and there’s a certain nuance to classifying (parts of) Reddit as toxic and mean, but we’ll do our best to provide an in-depth closer look at the current situation.
For full disclosure, this article was updated in June of 2022.
What Are Other People’s Toxic And Mean Experiences On Reddit?
A quick Google search reveals that a lot of people don’t have a lot of good things to say about Reddit. They usually consider Reddit in general to be a toxic place, but it all depends on what subreddits you’re visiting of course.
But back to the real experiences. Here’s a comment from Quora:
“It’s a toxic environment through and through – mods do whatever you want with your posts, and intelligent people get downvoted.”Dean Mcadams
Other people and commenters call Reddit “a place for social rejects”, “because it is filled with young people who don’t have fulfilling lives” and even compare it to a hive mind environment. Of course, this is a very negative look on things, and depending on the subreddits you visit, your experiences may vary completely.
Another person on Reddit (a bit ironic, isn’t it) was flabbergasted by the amount of toxicity and negativity that was spread on the platform.
“There are a few subs that are a majority very, very friendly people. But most I have found are just very rude, biased, and jump to the first negative conclusion they find and a lot of them love to gang up on people for misinformation, miscommunication, or misunderstandings,” Reddit user BadAssPrincessAlanie wrote.
You can’t disagree on anything without being downvoted to obliviation. When you do disagree, people start name calling and harassing you in a gang mentality.PopRevolutionary1475, Reddit
In short, people experience other people who try and bring you down, ridicule posts, comment on offensive things, or don’t try to engage in a respectful and meaningful conversation.
And if you post something thoughtful and respectful – sometimes you’re massively downvoted, which is hardly fair.
Sometimes, there is also a clear case of mod abuse.
You see, subreddits aren’t regulated by Reddit themselves, but the community can designate a few people in a certain community (/r/sneakers, for example) who try to keep the place neat and civilized, and also enforce certain rules (e.g. no spamming, no profanity, no spoilers from popular tv shows…) that must be followed.
These moderators also have the power to delete posts and comments and even ban users from a certain subreddit.
Mod abuse occurs when a community isn’t being moderated to the highest of standards, or if the mods are all friends with each other and abuse their power for whatever reason they might have.
Sometimes, subreddits are abandoned and left unmoderated.
Reddit does try to tackle this problem by banning unmoderated subreddits and stepping in when things get too severe, but otherwise, the subreddit moderators pretty much have all the power.
In some very extreme cases, people have also been doxxed.
Doxxing is a term for the elaborate leaking of someone’s private information such as name, phone number, and (IP) address. Luckily, Reddit’s administrators do usually take action when this occurs, but there have been a lot of incidents in the past.
What Are Some Of The Most Toxic And Controversial Subreddits?
Even though the site definitely has a history of shady subreddits, there are quite a few fairly recent subreddits that have been found quite toxic. In fact, you could probably write a book about the most toxic and controversial subreddits, but we’ll list a few up for you.
Anything COVID– or vaccine-related subreddits (r/coronavirus, r/covid19, r/vaccines) are bound to have some toxic people and trolls around. The topic itself is very controversial, of course, and that translates perfectly to these online subreddits.
Similar things can be said for the monkeypox outbreak in 2022 and their related subreddits.
Another very controversial and toxic subreddit was r/the_donald, a subreddit that was completely devoted to the former President of the United States, Donald Trump. Reddit even banned a whole lot of mods on this subreddit, because they were allegedly manipulating the site’s algorithms to get their posts on the front page of Reddit in support of the (then) presidential candidate.
After this massive controversy, Reddit actually enabled options to filter out any subreddit’s content. Reddit’s CEO, known as /u/spez on the platform, actually abused his admin powers as well and reworded some negative comments toward him.
The subreddit /r/fatpeoplehate probably doesn’t need much explanation, but it was a very toxic place where people could freely bash other people who were overweight.
All adult subreddits (not safe for work) are usually also places that should be avoided if you don’t want to come across any toxic or mean communities. The same applies to subreddits where illegal things are being discussed, such as piracy.
The technology subreddit is also one that has a lot of history. It was actually a default subreddit with over five million subscriptions, but it turns out that the moderators of the subreddit were actively blocking terms appearing such as “Tesla”, “Snowden” and “NSA”.
This period was very volatile and toxic as users protested against these censorship practices.
There are also anti-queer or anti-feminist movements on Reddit, with hundreds of thousands of subscribers. These subreddits have actually been studied in academic research, and it was found that these places were the source of extreme misogyny. Want to read more about this research? You can check out Debbie Ging’s published research article in this journal.
Is Reddit Trying To Do Something About Its Toxic And Controversial Image?
Yes, they are.
They were basically forced to after the massive controversy regarding the Donald Trump subreddit (see above), as it also had negative effects on the financial health of the company.
After all, no investors or advertisers want to put their money on a platform that is known for its toxicity.
That’s why Reddit has been making some changes and taking a step back from the “wild west” of the old days. Administrators are much more active and tend to ban controversial and disturbing subreddits much faster – usually subreddits that are not suited for underage people.
They do this in an effort to give Reddit a more corporate and serious image, but not everyone is happy about these changes. Some claim it prohibits free speech and is just a hidden form of censorship, but since Reddit is a private company, it can technically pretty much run the business however they see fit.
And Reddit seems to be as popular as ever, so perhaps this new approach is doing wonders for them. It sometimes still has other issues, however. For example, Reddit seems to be offline on a fairly regular basis – here’s why.
How To Avoid Toxicity on Reddit
Reddit is definitely not all negative – it can be a very cool place with interesting things, discussions, and people. There are definitely two sides of a coin here!
However, we completely understand that you’d like to avoid any toxicity on Reddit, so here are some tips.
1. Block certain subreddits from appearing in your feed
After the fiasco at r/the_donald, Reddit enabled tools on their website (and the app) that allows users to block seeing any content from certain subreddits. Find a subreddit or a community you didn’t like? Simply block it, and you won’t have to deal with it ever again.
2. Block people
This one’s pretty straightforward. If you’re constantly being harassed by someone, use that block button whenever you like.
3. Stay in the smaller subreddits or ones with a healthy moderation team
One community can definitely feel a whole lot different than the other. Smaller communities with fewer members tend to be more positive and respectful, and aren’t ‘infested’ with trolls or toxic people.
That doesn’t mean you can’t join a medium-sized or large community, of course, but you have to check whether or not the mods on there are doing their best and don’t have their own agenda.
4. Use the report button
Last but not least, use the report button extensively. Reddit is trying to clean up its image and it will definitely listen to users when they report offensive content or offensive users.
Do not report people you disagree with, but report people who are breaking the rules or are otherwise offensive. The report button may be used extensively, but it has to be used wisely.
Harassment, threats, leaking of personal information, racism, discrimination… Those are all things that you can use the report button for.
After your report has been submitted, someone at Reddit will review it and perhaps ban the user in question that’s being toxic. You might even help make Reddit a less toxic place if you do this!
Summary: Here’s Why Reddit Is So Toxic
Reddit can be toxic because of offensive or harassing people, hanging around in the more controversial or distasteful subreddits. People tend to feel a lot stronger behind a keyboard and the veil of anonymity, and some of those really tend to bring out their worst sides online. Luckily, Reddit is trying to clean up its image and there are a few things you can do to avoid this toxicity on the platform.