With the internet turning 25 last week, we are reminded that it is important to explore the diverse spaces where people can receive and discuss HIV-related information. In our Women and Technology post we mentioned that women use social media more than men for all social media sites, with the exception of Reddit.
In an effort to better understand the communities and demographics of different new media sites, we decided to take a closer look at Reddit and see how the HIV community can engage on this site.
What is Reddit?
Reddit , launched in 2005, is one of many social networking and news websites based on community feedback. They call themselves the “front page of the internet.” Reddit is essentially like an open source online bulletin board where Redditors (users of the site) can submit links on news, entertainment and a variety of other topics. Redditors provide all the content and decide, through voting, on the most interesting information. Because of voting on Reddit, links that receive community approval move up on the list of links, so the homepage is constantly changing.
As of last month, Reddit had 112,163,255 unique visitors from over 196 different countries.
Who is on Reddit?
According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project, 6% of online users are on Reddit. With 15% of male and 5% of female internet users ages 18-29 on Reddit, this community-driven site is most popular among young males .
Communities on Reddit
Reddit has over 5,700 active communities, which are called “subreddits”. There are different communities for nearly everything including politics, health, news, funny, etc. Each Reddit user can customize their subreddit subscriptions, so only the topics they want to see will appear on the front page. Anyone can create a community and each subreddit is moderated by a team of volunteers. Of the many communities on Reddit, there is an HIV/AIDS community (referred to as r/HIVAIDS) that provides HIV/AIDS related news, discussions, and support.
We spoke with the creator of the HIV/AIDS community on the site and he said: “The strengths of Reddit and other social media are the same for people in the HIV community as for everyone else. It’s a good place to bounce an idea off others. It’s a good place for group brainstorming. It’s a good place to go to just not feel alone. It can bring an issue to the attention of a targeted group. It can provide a place to vent your emotions when you need to…I think one of the great strengths of a site like Reddit and for social media in general is that it can reach populations who may not use other forms of more traditional media.”
The HIV Community & Reddit
For the HIV community, Reddit can be a platform to add helpful and valuable information. Reddit and Redditors clearly state the site is not a space for self-promotion, but it can be a space where those in the community share information and support one another. The Redditors we spoke with also thought it was important to note that because this is social media site, any medical advice should always be discussed with a health care professional.
One of the moderators of the HIV/AIDS subreddit told us, “Some members of the HIV community have definitely used Reddit and r/HIVAIDS to make new connections. Some of us (myself included) work in HIV/AIDS care and prevention. Some of us don’t. Regardless of our existing connections to the community, I think r/HIVAIDS has been really successful in being an open forum in which people can speak freely about how HIV has impacted their life. And that’s valuable.”
In addition to the HIV/AIDS community on Reddit, there is also an Ask Me Anything (AMA) page, where anyone can make themselves available for questions from the public. For instance there have been AMA’s such as “I am a 24 year old male born with HIV. Ask me Anything” or “I am a gay male living with HIV, Ask me Anything.” Last year even President Obama got on Reddit with his own AMA “I am Barack Obama, President of the United States, Ask Me Anything.”
Are you on Reddit? Tell us about your experiences and how you think the HIV community can continue to engage on it.