Do you want to foster online relationships with other Western students? Do you have questions that have to do with Western, but you’re not sure who to ask? Are you wondering where the least-used bathrooms are on campus?
Reddit is a social news and entertainment website where users submit content in the form of links or text posts and each submission is voted up or down to rank the post, with the highest ranked posts ending up on the front page of the website. Reddit is divided into interest-specific “subreddits,” which are dedicated forums, such as /r/sports, /r/fitness and /r/programming.
The Western subreddit, /r/uwo, is a resource for Western students and alumni for just about everything. With almost 1,500 users, including potential students, current students and alumni, the subreddit allows for multi-faceted use, becoming different things for different people.
“There’s a lack of informal online communication for students; Reddit facilitates that with ease. I think the discussion and commentary on this subreddit is more interesting than the spam you’ll find on news/blog sites,” says reddit user joeb0x, who created the subreddit three years ago.
The content posted on /r/uwo varies significantly.
Western spirit is in abundance with posts like Bill Nye’s visit and a Sportsnet article ranking the Mustangs football team as more fun to watch than the New York Jets. One of the highest rated posts ever put on the subreddit was last year’s Harlem Shake video in the University Community Centre.
There are controversial links as well: A picture of a presumed Western student appearing to give oral sex at a club in London, an article about London police collecting personal information from students and articles about the 2012 election hacking are among them.
All posters have reddit usernames, so they are typically anonymous. Reddit users don’t have to provide any proof that they’re a potential student, current student, or alumni of Western, so subscribers could, in theory, be anyone on reddit who is interested in Western.
“We’ve had to take moderation seriously and remove butt-loads of spam, porn and apartment-hunter spam,” joeb0x explains.
The subreddit recently attracted attention when Team Helfand’s slate posted an AMA, or “Ask Me Anything,” on the subreddit, where users could pose questions directly to the Helfand slate.
USC president Pat Whelan’s team did the same thing last year, and if the subreddit continues to grow as a hub for student activity, it will likely play a larger role in campus politics in the future.
Tamwow19, a moderator on the subreddit, organizes on-campus meet-ups for subscribers, including a Spoke meet-up, a Rick McGhie concert, and meetings at the Grad Club.
“I mostly use /r/uwo to stay up to date on Western news or to post Western news, since I’m on reddit a lot and not on campus to pick up a Gazette. It’s also a great place for people to ask questions — we have a great community from undergrads to grad students to alumni who are always willing to help out!” she says.
Matt Clarfield, a second-year political science student who visits /r/uwo about once a week, noted the best content posted was that directly related to the university.
“I think the best uses of the UWO subreddit are when people, who are either at Western or coming to Western, ask questions about the university,” Clarfield says. “People are always really quick at answering and give really detailed answers, and I think that, in that sense, any question will be answered, so it’s a strong subreddit.”
Still, after three years, the subreddit is only used by a small percentage of students.
“It doesn’t have very many visitors, and it could use a lot of improvement in that sense,” Clarfield says.
“It’s still just a baby,” joeb0x says. “It takes only a couple sophs and few frosh for the subreddit to suddenly expand another 100-300 people, which it probably will until it completely runs away on us — suddenly you might find more students better informed about life, classes, finances, goals, health, et cetera.”
For the record, the highest comment on the least-used bathroom post came from redditor Lieutenant_Mustard, who says, “Anywhere but middle of the UCC is fine. People are too scared to [go to the bathroom] in public so there’s generally a clean toilet if you need one.”