This seems to be the year when the already-popular Reddit blew up—in a good way—to become a household name around the world. During the pandemic, the network for online communities became the go-to destination for people to share their opinions, experiences and stories and connect with one another.
Roxy Young, Reddit chief marketing officer, said about the year in review, “This year, we’ve seen firsthand the power of online communities to drive real-world action and impact. From the highly publicized activity within r/wallstreetbets to the everyday interactions that continue to inspire, it’s clear the conversations, advice and recommendations that take place within online communities have the power to proliferate to the real world.”
Reddit is home to over 100,000 active communities around the world, with 366 million posts in 2021 and more than 2.3 billion total comments. The most upvoted comments, reflecting what the members feel are most important, interesting and relevant, include work-related matters and Wall Street trading activities.
The Most Upvoted Comments
- r/wallstreetbets: “Times Square right now” (431K upvotes)
- r/wallstreetbets: “UPVOTE so everyone sees we got SUPPORT” (322K upvotes)
- r/wallstreetbets: “GME YOLO update — Jan 28 2021” (286K upvotes)
- r/antiwork: “Quit my job last night, it was nice to be home to make the kids breakfast and take them to school today! Off to hunt for a new opportunity, wish me luck :)” (270K upvotes)
Unemployment for all
“Unemployment for all” is the frustrated rallying cry of the r/antiwork subreddit, representing the revolutionary changes taking place in the workplace.
Millions of Americans have quit their jobs in the “Great Resignation.” Workers were frustrated with low pay, long hours and little or no future growth potential. To add insult to injury, they had to endure overbearing micromanaging bosses. If they worked in restaurants, bars or retail stores, there were constant arguments with rude customers and fighting over mask requirements.
If you’re on the r/antiwork subreddit, you’ll find over 1.3 million idlers—the self-described term for members of this group—sharing their stories of mistreatment by companies. The group is a home for “those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on antiwork ideas and want personal help with their own jobs/work-related struggles.”
This movement means something different to the people on the site. If taken at face value, some members are sick and tired of working and don’t have any interest in finding a new job anytime soon. Others want to vent their frustrations. A common, unifying theme is that workers feel that they are being taken advantage of, forced to work long hours for low wages and treated rudely by their unsympathetic managers.
Roughly 40% of the jobs that people quit were in the restaurant, hotel, travel, bars, warehouses, manufacturing and healthcare sectors. These folks contend with long, constantly changing hours, rude customer behaviors, low wages and high stress.
These workers are pushing back against poor pay, unpleasant working conditions and a lack of respect from management. Once they’ve left, many take their time to seek out new types of opportunities that offer meaningful work and a path to advance.
Many of their complaints, factoring in a healthy dose of hyperbole, are valid. The younger generation may be the first group in modern history that does not do better—or as well—as their parents. With tens or hundreds of thousands in student-loan debt, young adults find it almost impossible to purchase a home, get married and start a family. The debt burden, along with rising home prices and inflation, doesn’t leave them with sufficient funds to afford the lifestyle that older generations took for granted.
One of the subreddits that turned into a social phenomenon was r/wallstreetbets. Seemingly overnight, people who never invested in stocks became enamored in day trading meme stocks. Millennials and Gen-Z found a new career trading stocks online. The pandemic has caused people to lose their jobs or work from home. College students had their in-class lectures canceled and were forced to learn over Zoom calls, made by professors who lack proficiency in the technology they use.
One of the quirky results of millions of people staying at home all day long is the fast-growing emergence of young, novice “investors” trading stocks online. Many have flocked to Robinhood, a trading app that’s built like a video game.
A large segment of the active traders dispense with purchasing shares and buy cheap, risky, out-of-the-money calls, which offer them significantly more leverage and outsized gains. WallStreetBets is the go-to subreddit for people interested in the rush of trading and the camaraderie of fun-loving, goofy, foul-mouthed and self-deprecating colleagues. Their buying frenzy of GameStop stock and call options offers a window into their activities.
Robinhood day traders started buying stock of the companies the hedge fund gurus sold short. This pushed the big-money guys to frantically buy back stock to “cover” their positions. The more they tried to buy it back, the greater the price moved upward.
It became so bad that one of the targets of the trading gang, Melvin Capital, needed to get a cash injection from two major hedge funds, including the one run by the new owner of the New York Mets, to keep from closing. The trading was so heavy and furious that “outages and interruptions” took place at the largest online brokers, including Charles Schwab, Vanguard, Fidelity and several other online brokerages.
Redditors giddily celebrated their victory over the professionals with emojis and trash-talking. Many showed screenshots of the money they made off of their trades. Some have claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars or over a million in quick gains. These numbers could be real, inflated or fictitious.
Politicians and the Securities and Exchange Commission felt forced to look into the trading-related activities.
Cryptocurrencies were one of the most visited subreddits in 2021. For more than 10 years, Reddit has been home to over 500 cryptocurrency communities. As more redditors participate in conversation, whether it be for information, help or to share major successes, Reddit continues to be the hub for cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
The top-five most-viewed crypto communities in 2021 were r/dogecoin, r/superstonk. r/cryptocurrency, r/amcstock, and r/bitcoin.
Laura Nestler, vice-president of community at Reddit, said, “Our mission is to bring community and belonging to everyone around the world. Most of our work to achieve that mission happens online, so what I found most interesting this past year was how many people banded together and went from URL to IRL; people rallied online and Redditors positively impacted their own—and others’—physical communities.”