I’ve been thinking about Reddit and how many folks use it to be the friend that they don’t have in their lives.
There have been many times in my life when I was curious or excited about some activity but didn’t know how to start. Tap dance, playing the harmonica, writing science fiction are ones that come to mind, but there were many more.
At the time, I didn’t have much support around me to learn about or get connected to people who did those things. Those were not pursuits that my family knew anything about or would support me in pursuing. I didn’t have a big circle of friends I could ask about those things. My school didn’t have many extracurricular clubs or spaces to explore those hobbies. And the internet didn’t exist.
So I didn’t actively explore any of those activities in my youth or most of my adult life.
I feel like today that would be different. I know that for all of those artistic endeavors, if I wanted to pursue them seriously, I would know where and who to go to. I have friends who have expertise in all of those arts. I know some of the communities and places that exist to support people who are passionate about them.
More importantly, I know much more about myself and what my own learning style is. I have better mental tools to deal with the inevitable frustrations, disappointments, and self-doubts that come with starting any new activity.
Which is where Reddit comes in.
I’m active on a few forums on Reddit, specifically related to lindy hop, roller skating, and Disney theme parks. What strikes me about all of these are the common questions and concerns that come up from participants. Often they are of the nature of people dealing with fear, anxiety, and self-doubt.
“Help! I’m terrified of falling!”
“Should I go to Disneyland alone?”
“My first swing dance class is tomorrow and I’m scared!”
“I’ve been skating for a year and still can’t figure out transitions.”
“I want to ride Space Mountain but worried I will get puke.”
“Am I too old / fat / uncoordinated / shy to start lindy hop?”
What strikes me is how supportive almost everyone is in their replies to those people. Lots of sharing how they were in a similar head space and how they got out of it. Or links to resources to get better informed about the thing. Or just a kind word of encouragement.
Of course there are trolls and assholes and idiots. But generally they are voted down to oblivion by the majority of redditors, at least in the subreddits I’m on.
At the end of the day, this is one of the things that healthy communities and friendships provide for us. I’m fortunate enough to have people in my day-to-day life who fulfill that role for me. But I know that not everyone is so lucky.
They might be alone in the local basketball court early on a Tuesday morning. They take their first tentative roll on the pink Moxies quads that looked so enticing when they saw them on a Facebook ad, but now feel wobbly as hell. They take a bad spill on their butt and they think “Is this hobby even for me?” And there is no one there to answer them, to help them get up again and keep trying. No one but Reddit.