anonymity, free speech, and why i use reddit

While reading Hogan’s article and thinking to myself, “mmhmm. yup. yes. agreed.” etc., I realized that it’s the thing I value most about Reddit as a social network. His general premise, that “real name sites” like Facebook are necessarily inadequate for free speech, represents exactly why redditors feel that our site is such a cohesive online community.

Hogan’s point that real name sites deny people the right to be context specific is effectively countered by the site’s username system. Because though an individual user’s comments can be seen by anyone, his or her screen name cannot be traced back to him or her unless he or she decides to share that information in comments. As a result, users can provide honest answers and/or support to difficult questions about addiction, loss, secrets, legal, political, or relationship issues. They can very easily create “throwaway” accounts for this exact purpose so that even those who interact with them on other parts of the site don’t know about this side of a particular user. In this way individuals are never “[tethered] to a single all-encompassing key (the real name) that unlocks whatever [they] say.”

Whenever I see an article on ESPN on which I might ordinarily weigh in, I hesitate because it requires my thoughts to be forever inseparably linked to my Facebook profile and therefore my identity. However, if that article is shared as a link on Reddit, I will almost definitely share my thoughts.

Finally, Reddit deals with the necessary problem of curation when a site has a constantly updating feed full of millions of people’s content by allowing the content to be democratically voted on by the site’s users based on whether that content adds to the site or takes away from it. This way you are placing your trust in the community to decide who should read your content, rather than a single individual or company.