In your most active personal digital network, why would you say you choose to contribute? Do you think of users differently based on the amount of their activity? How do you think this varies across different social media platforms?
Though I am probably most active on Facebook, I want to answer this question about Reddit, because Instagram because I think its structure lends itself better to answering this question in an interesting way. On Reddit there are 3 fundamental types of users lurkers, contributors, and moderators. Having recently created the /r/comm182 sub, I think I can now speak somewhat knowledgeably to all three roles.
Many users follow a variety of subreddits and vary their activity on each, here are some reasons of my own (and some directly from other Redditors) that explain why we/I choose the various roles in different subs.
Many users choose not to comment in any threads or only have a few in which they like to directly contribute. I only participate actively in two or three different subreddits, and for the rest I only click around and read/watch what is interesting to me. I don’t usually volunteer my feelings about them because for the most part the subreddits have so many subscribers that by the time I have a chance to comment on a post, it has already received so many upvotes that someone has already said what I would have wanted to say, or my comment would never be read because the thread is has received so many comments already. As /u/cleverspainard puts it, “[Reddit] feels like high school. There are the popular redditors with their clever comments. I’m the weird kid that chimes in too late. So I stay quiet and save myself the criticism.”
Commenting on Reddit can make users feel self-concious when they feel like they are not known in the subreddit community in which they are lurking so they choose to soak it up rather than put themselves out there and risk embarrassment.
I choose to actively participate in two threads. /r/sfgiants and /r/fantasyfootball, both for different reasons. During the baseball season, the Giants sub becomes a place of intense bonding and it is a great forum to vocalize ideas in a community that knows my screenname and is small enough (at ~14,000 users) that I see the see the same names pop up consistently (along with the number of times I’ve upvoted them previously) so that I feel as though I am speaking among people who have already formulated generally positive ideas about me and who will be receptive to my ideas. I post in /r/fantasyfootball because during the football season its threads are full of people asking and providing advice. Generally the people who contribute the most (your comments on the thread are tracked) are those who receive the most help, so there is plenty of incentive.
Moderators in Reddit serve something of a community government role, developing and announcing community rules and expectations that help to gel a group together. The people that serve in these roles tend to be highly passionate about their subreddits because they are frequently inundated with comments, submissions, and questions and requests and do this for no compensation except the satisfaction and respect of their communities.
I think these roles are at least somewhat universal across all platforms, with lurkers being people with profiles or accounts who don’t contribute much, commenters being the basic contributors, and moderators being the most active and passionate users.