Reddit is the internet’s New Jersey: Dense, well-populated, poorly regarded, run around the border with bad smells and toxic waste—and filled with some surprisingly worthwhile spots. Whether Reddit as whole can be saved is an open question. But there are unquestionably subreddits that should be.
Reddit’s front page is a fine place for finding viral fodder photos and breaking news, but like any large online community its comments have a tendency toward the obvious and unfunny—and, at worst, the actively malevolent and bigoted, encouraged by Reddit’s tolerance for malignancies like r/coontown. Why visit r/worldnews or r/video when you’re going to end up reading some of Reddit’s worst racism? (As it often turns out, Reddit’s largest, most mainstream sections are where racism and idiocy hides in plain site.)
Where Reddit really shines is in its niche communities—the subreddits that cater to deeply specific interests. There are three kinds of subreddits that are worth clicking on purpose—the sincerely good, which are instructional, constructive, and thoughtful, and provide hobbyists, experts, and amateurs with a nice place for casual discussion; the oddly good, which, like motel hot-tubs, are surprisingly fun, even if you’re not quite sure what you’re wading into; and the so-bad-they’re great subreddits, which are so weird, gross, stupid, or horrendous that their fascinating unpleasantness is a kind of distinction all to its own.
The following are collected from my own browsing and from coworkers—please drop your favorites in the comments.
For my money, the best comment section on the internet because the moderators are strict as fuck and delete joke answers, bad answers, and aggressively question people for citations, so the only thing you get is people with PhDs nerding out about cool history subjects.
/r/PS4—in my experience this section is free from Gamergate bullshit. It’s just a vanilla discussion of video games for the video game console I own. I never comment, but reading it doesn’t make me want to kill myself.
I regularly lurk /r/soccer and /r/coys (team-specific soccer subreddit). Most of the major sports subreddits seem okay. During last week’s blow up I only saw one thread on /r/soccer that was related, and basically the gist of it was “Reddit is mad about something again? Imagine that. Anyway, here’s this cool slide tackle gif.”
It’s a super earnest community of people who make music. It has a lot of n00b questions like “how do I promote my band?” and “I don’t understand subtractive synthesis!” but nobody’s ever a dick, and if you dive into any of the threads there’s almost always useful information from someone who knows what the fuck they’re talking about.
/r/LifeProTips—A collection of hints for getting stains out of your shirts and other cleanliness essentials. Deadspin’s resident stain-remover Jolie Kerr says it’s “lovely and wonderful and I did an AMA there in which I did not get trolled, not one single time.” Wow!
/r/TipOfMyTongue—Ever have three quarters of an idea in your head—a word, a place, a movie, a celebrity—but you can’t get the word out? It’s on the tip of your tongue, so to speak? This subreddit is filled with people like you who help each other answer that question.
/r/ExplainLikeI’mFive—Not at all condescending, like it sounds. Ask a question about a complicated or obscure subject, and someone will gently break it down for your puny brain, as if you were... five.
/r/DataIsBeautiful—A collection of data visualizations. Deadspin data dork and manga fan Kyle Wagner says it’s “50000x better than 538” (good luck visualizing that, Kyle!) and adds “this isn’t even a troll but the individual anime and manga reddits are usually good…”
So Bad They’re Great
/r/LegalAdvice—Imagine an entire internet discussion board of people implicating themselves in criminal acts. You don’t need to imagine it, because it’s real, and it’s here. My absolute favorite subreddit.