On Quitting Reddit

Aug 9, 2023
7 min read
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I'm quitting reddit.

Or at least I'm trying to.

One of the biggest mental health challenges I've faced in my professional career has been a sense of demand avoidance and procrastination. One of my biggest sources of procrastination and doom scrolling has been reddit. It's easy to look at this from a "he doesn't care / won't work" perspective but the large issue is that I retreat and retract from social situations that I feel aren't giving me the chance for success. Reddit isn't the problem, but my use of it as an escape is an actionable symptom I can do something about.

My choices to quit are twofold. One, I feel like being a shitty person needs to become a bad business model. The only way I can voice my opinion on the protests is to not use the platform that I've enjoyed for the past decade. It's a bitter pill to swallow, and one I'm honestly having trouble following through on. Spez if you're reading this you can eat shit, I'm upset that you have poisoned the platform I contributed to for over a decade. You're not going anywhere, so I'm out. I regret contributing what I did, but (so far) I haven't decided to delete my content and posts. Like the subtitle said, it's been proving harder than anticipated.

My second, and more important reason to quit reddit is to take control of my life, and put my time and effort into things that are reciprocally beneficial. One of the observations I made during the reddit protests was that I spent a lot of time commenting, sometimes engaging in troll / flame wars but never really actually CONNECTING with people. I posted, I relished my upvotes but what did they even represent? What's the point of impressing people you will never interact with if all it does is enrich a business?

Over a year ago I gave up alcohol because I was using it as a crutch to cope with unsustainable and unhealthy life and social conditions. Conditions like jobs you just "can't leave" and then... you get let go and you can't even get the jobs that you would turn your nose up at. Being put in prolonged situations where my values are not respected has reseulted in some pretty severe anxiety and demand avoidance around things that I don't want to do, or don't think will work out.

If the repeated exposure to unescapable stress sounds like PTSD, well it probbably is. I do not have a formal diagnosis but working with my therapist has opened my eyes to my avoidance behaviors. Regardless of the lables attached to them, they are all things that I can work to either improve myself on, or find ways to remove myself from situations before things become unteneable again.

The thing that is craziest to me about alcohol is that it was actually very easy to quit. I did it cold turkey, I just stopped spending money on it, which was easy in part because part of my stress was about not having money to begin with. I also had motivation to quit drinking because I felt (rightly so) that I would lose everything from my wife to my house if I didn't make a significant change.

Quitting alcohol was also helped by friends and family who supported me, and were just there socially for me. Who didn't make it weird when I didn't want any booze. I did lose friends because of this change, I think this is one of the things people fear most about drinking and it's worth noting. It's a real thing. You're going to have to make sacrifices like this that don't feel good if you want to improve your life.

Anyway back to the subject at hand. I go on at length about alcohol because it was another crutch in my elaborate support structure made almost entirely of maladaptive behaviors. Alcohol was identified as a problem, and successfully removed. I haven't had a drink in over a year. Mission accomplished. So quitting a social media site should be easy, right?

Actually, no. Even though I have tried to quit I've been unable to truly avoid reddit. Just like TikTok it's just become a facet of society that is blasted at you whether you want it or not. Ignoring reddit at times means ignoring people whom I care about that send me information via reddit. I'm going to read it, I resepect and enjoy them and my beef with the platform doesn't justify cutting off my ACTUAL social network.

I'm writing this post because I just want to give myself some compassion about quitting reddit being difficult. I find myself returning to view political news, which is another poisonus cycle I want to end. The other day I found myself responding to a thread on a new jersey devils subreddit, which again... these are things I miss doing. But I have to make myself question whether the actions I'm doing are actually benefiting me or if I'm just going through the motions.

Being real for a moment, I've just kind of replaced reddit with Facebook. The main difference is that the activity I'm putting into facebeook is actually prodcuctive from a networking and talking to people perspective. It's opened a few doors for me and in that I can honestly say even though it's a lesser evil, I am getting something about it that reddit wasn't giving me.

The other piece of this puzzle is YouTube and our VT2U channel, which has been an incredibly fulfilling project in terms of telling a story I want to. It has allowed me to present myself to the world in a way that I not only approve of, but I'm proud of. Instead of just lurking on the edges and commenting, I've become an active contributor. Not even anything special, just being myself. My vibe has attracted a tribe, and by putting myself out there and showing the real me I have opened the door to real and meaningful connections in ways that reddit never did. Shout out to Hunter at Saratoga Bass Fishing and Matt from BareFishin, you guys have singlehandedly restored my faith in humanity. All you did was be yourselves, I can't thank you enough for being YOU, and accepting me for me.

Reddit doesn't serve the thing it used to for me in my life, and I have to take many, many steps backwards to truly replace the gaping hole that it's left in my life. It helped to turbocharge my tech career after college. Like Napster, ICQ, AIM and the Gamespy Forums I was part of, they are times and places to enjoy and reflect on. Not something that could last forever.

My choice is that rather than participating in platforms, I need to build my own. Instead of joining teams or clubs, I need to be the leader and organizer that I can be to create the meetups, events and communities that I want to be a part of. Whether it's facebook or YouTube I've found a way to be more actively engaged. That is the thing I need more of. It's not the platform, it's what you're doing on the platform.

I am ready to be the change that I seek in the world, the first step is leaving behind old and unproductive habits. Reddit helped me become who I am but slowly over time like alcohol did, it became a maladaptive antipattern holding me back. I may never have a drink of alcohol again, but I know soon I will point my browser at and succum to the FOMO. Quitting reddit is harder than quitting alcohol for me and that's ok. In the larger picture of harm reduction I'm making positive steps every time I choose to edit video or plan a trip with a friend over scrolling through pictures or arguing with meat or bots online.

I hope this post gives you the willingness to look at your own feelings, thoughts and actions with an honest, open and critical eye. It's not about being hard on yourself it's about being honest, and embracing the feelings even when they are uncomfortable.

This is where the true growth is.

I'm pretty sure I'm not going to find that on reddit.

Mat with a Salmon

Mat Gilbert is a creative engineer living in Huntington, VT with his Wife and Cat. He goes fishing as much as possible, but enjoys technology and artwork when not on the water.




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