Whenever we hear a story that is absolutely bizarre or absurd, we attribute it as a consequence of the Internet. On one extreme, we have the Florida Man, which is an abstract idea that anything crazy can and will happen in Florida. This Floridian’s outrageous adventures include the bath salt zombie, trading a alligator for beer, and well, George Zimmerman, an embodiment of Florida.
While, I, as others, enjoy making fun of out phallic shaped state as much as anybody else, my concerns about the lack of legitimacy in anything we hear from the Internet.
One of the subreddit (smaller, but more specific community), AskReddit, boasts 40,000 active users and have 7.7 million subscribers. As a forum, it is a very well moderated community, allowing for different types of questions flourish. The community itself has agreed to allow for more serious questions to weed out joke answers if the OP (original poster) calls for it. Some of these threads posts provide insight into community and groups that might be not be verbalized in face-to-face conversations.
Granted, some of the topics are meant to be meta and make fun of the subreddit itself. As a whole, the community suffers from a form of hive-mind personality, where there are certain acceptable and unacceptable responses. A particular thread asked “What are things I should do every day” and obtained the responses flossing and masturbating in bulk. For the rest of the day, every AskReddit thread had those two responses.
What else, however, differentiates AskReddit from a survey tool like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which is used to collect information in academically published papers? A well thought out AskReddit thread would have set parameters on the type of information they would like without the economic incentive that Mechanical Turk provides. Does the format of Reddit as a community that is allowed to communicate with each other remove the legitimacy that AmTurk’s anonymity provides for research and knowledge?