Why Are People On The Internet Mean? Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian Tells Us

Alexis Ohanian says you can control the social platform but not the users.

July 3, 2013— -- Reddit. You either love it or you don't understand it. You either use it every day to find your news, memes, atheists wearing fedoras... Or every few weeks you attempt to use it only to close the window as soon as you get to the homepage. Let's call a spade a spade here: the website's design leaves much to be desired, and content-wise it is overwhelming, not to mention sometimes downright nasty.


But, let's give credit where it's due. Reddit, which was founded by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian right out of college in 2005, has become a force to be reckoned with in media. Some people use Reddit for fundraising or connecting with strangers, while others use it to verbally (textually?) tear down strangers while hiding behind their usernames.

"[The platform] is still subject to humans and humans are not perfect. As is the usual case with technology, we have to find ways to encourage the best behavior out of us. There is no perfect system," Ohanian said in an interview with Fusion at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Comments and posts can be up-voted so the "better" material goes straight to the top of the page. "Better" is of course in quotations because with more accessibility to the Internet comes more idiotic homebodies who never heard the saying "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

By the same token, Reddit can be, and frequently is, used for good. For example, "exhanges"... like "snack exchange" where you send snacks to complete strangers. But Ohanian says he can't take credit for any good that Reddit has done. "It's not Reddit, it's still just people. If anyone said that Twitter caused the Arab Spring I would laugh in their face because Twitter doesn't cause Arab Springs, people do," he said.

We spoke to Ohanian about the website's layout, what the most popular subreddit is, and if everyone on the Internet is mean. Check out the video above for his answers.

On Monday Ohanian announced a new web series on The Verge about startup culture called Small Empires. "It's like 'Inside The Actor's Studio' meets 'Dirty Jobs'," he said. The Verge says you can expect the series in late July.