I'm quitting Reddit. Or am I?

I'm quitting Reddit. Or am I?
Photo by Jocelyn Morales on Unsplash

I'll admit I have a love-hate relationship with Reddit. It starts by feeling a need for connection and going on Reddit, exploring communities, adding them to my homepage, and then becoming obsessed with curating more and more until I have a deluge of content that I need to scroll through at an increasing pace every day, just to feel caught up. It's exhausting. Not only that but something's gotten worse over time. And I can't quite place my finger on it.

I've been using Reddit since I found it about a decade ago. And I've seen it evolve from the social network of Anonymous to a wannabe big-league player. I had breaks with Reddit before, mostly due to content binging, and then I felt like every free moment was occupied by pulling out my phone and scrolling. I justified it to myself, thinking that I was connecting with a community and I was getting inspired and finding artwork. Seeing people's posts encouraged me to try my own projects. But I think that was a lie. I think that it actually sapped my motivation to achieve anything myself.

Another justification I would use is that "Oh, I should use Reddit so that when I make my own projects, I already have an established presence and feel comfortable posting and sharing my progress." The problem with that mentality is that, again, it just became more entertaining, more rewarding, more pleasurable, and easier to use Reddit than achieve something.

My wife recently admitted she has a problem with Instagram, which I've noticed. And I've been going back and forth on using Reddit for a while. I took a long break when Reddit announced its API change policy. Apollo went away, and Apollo really was my favorite Reddit client. Since that point, I boycotted Reddit for a long time just because there was no alternative. And then Narwhal 2 came to the stage. And while it wasn't as good as Apollo, it definitely hit the spot. As in, I could scroll and view content just as effectively, if maybe not as intuitively or fluidly. The problem is that I had to subscribe to Narwhal to use it, and then I would say, "Ugh, why am I paying for Reddit, this thing that's sucking out my energy?" But then I would be bored and listless and feel like I needed some inspiration; I would re-download it again. And it was this cycle that made me feel like I wasn't in control and that I was somehow broken.

So, I've decided to take a big step and add Reddit to the list of blocked content websites in my screen time. I've also deleted the Narwhal 2 app. My hope is that I'll be able to stop using Reddit completely. I think this follows a general trend of people getting off of social media like Twitter after the X-odus, or Facebook's rage-baiting engagement, or, Instagram, with all the monetization and ads.

I think that there's the classic case of dependence and addiction, as well as the issue of brain chemistry being changed by these social media platforms. When I'm on Reddit, I'm scrolling and getting a dopamine surge that is motivating me, essentially, to find the next piece of content that may be useful to my situation. Because Reddit's communities can be so individually tailored, just like Instagram, when you're scrolling, the content does feel relevant. It feels like you need to view it. This constant dopamine surge will sometimes suck me in, where I'm on Reddit for 30 or 45 minutes at a time, just scrolling, reading comments, and viewing the next post. It really does waste my time. On top of that, I think because I'm constantly releasing dopamine, or my brain is primed to release dopamine, to pick up the phone, I'm in a constant state of using my will, my free will, my motivation, my energy, my attention, and my brain tells me I need to prioritize using Reddit over other things that release a smaller amount of dopamine but are actually good for me.

If I were using Reddit to run a business, it would be a very different scenario. But I'm not. I'm using Reddit to consume content that provides no other benefit to my life, and when I say no other benefit, I mean I have experienced no measurable impact or benefit from Reddit on my life other than the occasional distraction when I'm feeling listless. To me, that's not enough of a benefit. I need something more tangible for the amount of energy that I'm pouring into Reddit. It's the reward-seeking behavior of all social media that contributes to society's attention span crisis. But I think more than that, there's a huge misalignment between performing an action that our brain is convinced is rewarding and should be rewarding versus not actually seeing any measurable benefit in the long run. I think this can contribute to depression simply because our brain experiences dissonance as to why it's constantly being rewarded, yet there's no actual benefit.

So, I'm taking the plunge; I'm asking my wife to monitor me. We've made a pact that if I stop using Reddit, she'll stop using Instagram. Not only that, I've also decided to turn color filters on for my phone so that my phone is black and white. I'm ready for a change; I'm ready for something new. I'm tired of spending my energy on addictive and non-beneficial content consumption. And I'm preparing to actually start building things. This is why I'm quitting Reddit. Maybe you should consider it too.