News & Opinion

The Stages of subReddit (Forum) Mastery

I have a love/hate (mostly hate)relationship with Reddit and other online forums. On the one hand, they can be a fantastic resource, giving you access to many different experiences and viewpoints. On the other hand, they can be toxic echo chambers where the Gatekeepers rule. And because of this, members get more misinformation than information, leaving them more confused than when they started. But being a veteran of the online forum, I have witnessed the stages of subReddit or online forum mastery. So let’s dive in, have some fun, and discuss!

Stage One – The Neophyte

Ahhh, the poor neophyte is the first stage of subReddit mastery and often the most abused! These poor souls ask (according to the group) “dumb questions” and get laughed at or mocked by the group. Or (gasp) they proudly post a photo of the completed home theater or listening space. And are met with a deluge of comments that say the TV is too high, improper speaker placement, or that their gear is trash

Being new can be challenging!

Most neophytes have similar reactions. The first instinct is to get defensive and fight back against the group. This choice usually leads to negativity, a ban (see more later), or a thread that reads like a dumpster fire. The second up is to delete the post and then “u/deleted” your entire account! Lastly, you clam up and lurk, slowly gathering knowledge until you are bold enough to become…

Stage Two: The Lurker

The Lurker reads all and speaks very little. When the Lurker does post, it’s from personal experience. They’ll only comment on things where they have real-world experience. Their advice is usually decent, and it rings true for some. It might get some upvotes, but it will probably get lost in a sea of other “better” posts. 

The Lurker is in the comments!

But the Luker loves to contribute and is an observant sort. The Lurker quickly sees the types of posts that get traction or, better yet, who gets the most upvotes. And, after all, who doesn’t want useless internet upvotes from anonymous people with no real expertise aside from being active on the subReddit or forum? This reason is why the Lurker begins to evolve to…

Stage Three: The Teacher’s Pet

What the Teacher’s Pet is good at doing is reading the room and figuring out what is the “right answer.” So what answer is the right one, you ask? Well, it’s whatever the soup de jour is for that particular day, week, month, or year. There are lots of these truth’s out there. My favorite is that Klipsch is bad. “But why, Teacher’s Pet, is Klipsch bad?”

“Because the group has said it is bad! Therefore, it is bad. Downvote for you!”

I know, I know! Your speakers are trash!

The Teacher’s Pet talks in subjective terms or quotes sources that may not exist. For example, when the Teacher’s Pet says something is subjectively “bad” and you ask for objective proof or personal experience, they can’t produce it. Instead, their entire knowledge base is gathered from what is popular now and will change at the group’s whim without the need for reason. Want further evidence? Go to an audiophile forum and ask for subwoofer recommendations for your 2-channel system. Put them into a tailspin by suggesting a ported subwoofer is better for music than a sealed one. Go ahead; I’ll wait.    

But do you spend all of your time as a Teacher’s Pet? You know all the “right” answers, but what if you want more? What if you’re going to climb the ladder of the stages of subReddit and online forum mastery and gain more power? Next stop…

Stage Four: Tech Support

Ahh, Tech Support, the experts of “something.” What are Tech Support experts of? Who knows! But everyone knows they are experts, and no one dares to challenge their wisdom. The best part of being Tech Support is that you no longer have to fight your battles. Tech Support can spout out whatever silliness they wish, and the Teacher’s Pets will rabidly defend them and thank them for their new knowledge.  

I can see that your TV is precisely 2% too high!

Facts, schmacts. As Tech Support, you don’t need no stinkin’ facts. You ARE the facts! What you say is the gospel, and the rabid masses will support you and increase your thoughts that you are infallible. You are so powerful that you can post something completely off-topic, and no one dares to chastise you. The only person that the Tech Support fears are…

Stage Five: That Guy

That Guy is one of the most powerful positions held in the stages of subReddit or online forum mastery. Everyone knows their name, trusts their words, and they are most likely ardent posters who must respond to almost every post. And it’s usually just a single word (usually “No”) or a link to the FAQ in the sidebar. No context. But you know they are looking down their nose at you! You can practically feel their derision. They don’t need to provide context and how dare you suggest they expound upon their answer. They have been a group member for years, and their flair tells you exactly how good their system is!

That Guy may be a moderator and may be able to ban you. And ban you, they will, if you dare speak out against the known truths of the group. If they have not risen that high, they are a trusted advisor of…

Stage Six: The Don

Like an actual Don, a group of Subreddit Cappos chooses The Don in a secret meeting from their online basements. We don’t know the criteria, except “trust us, we know what we are doing.”  

The Don is rarely seen or heard from, but you know they have posted something. But when you search their comment history, it is entirely blank. Maybe you hallucinated that they responded to your post. Or, like most things in forums and subReddits, no one likes to be reminded that they were wrong, so they delete their history frequently. After all, The Don is all-knowing, and nothing you can say is contrary to that. 

What happens if you dare oppose The Don and the wisdom of the subReddit? That’s right. You get excommunicated from the entire subReddit. Forever. Unless you repent your wicked ways and kiss The Don’s ring. Or…create a new account!

Our Take

So there you have it—the stages of subReddit and online forum mastery. Hopefully, you had a chuckle reading it. I know that I had fun poking fun at the forums and some of the personalities that frequent them. 

What about you? Have you been one of these personalities? Let us know in the comments below.

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