Self-Awareness: Trial by Reddit

Reddit / Composite

The thing about Reddit is that you can truly get a diverse experience on the website, perfectly tailored from the incredibly important to the very stupid (ah, how innocent 2019 seems in comparison).

Some of the best subreddits involve personal story submissions, whether that be /r/relationships (relationship advice, usually with disgustingly large age gaps) or /r/friendships, in which the answers to every post seem to be either ‘Stop being their friend’ or ‘They’re clearly in love with you’ – the second almost always leading to the first.

Of all the subreddits in the personal story category – essentially, those that involve users posting a story and then fielding questions or comments or advice (whether solicited or unsolicited) – the best one is undoubtedly /r/AmITheAsshole.

AITA (short for Am I The Asshole) is an acronym that’s become increasingly popular over the past decade or so, as a shorthand way of asking whether the original poster is the asshole in a given situation. It’s really the litmus test of self-awareness.

Generally, the responses to any good AITA post are one of the following: YTA (You’re The Asshole, clearly answering in the affirmative), NTA (Not The Asshole, absolving the poster of any guilt), ESH (Everyone Sucks Here, saying multiple parties are at fault), or NAH (No Asshole Here, the ultra-rare scenario where really no is one clearly at fault).

People vote, people debate, people discuss…it’s a lot of fun, honestly, and an easy way to spend a few hours, especially since the popularity of the AITA subreddit led to its being ported over to Twitter and Instagram.

But the best part about AITA is not the comments, or the responses from the posters (often defensive as hell), or even the return posters. Nah, the best part is what it shows us all about self-awareness.

See, generally, there are two different categories that make up a good 90% of the posts on AITA. These two groups are absolutely wonderful to read.

Group One is the best because it’s the toxic group that you would expect from a community known as /r/AmITheAsshole. These are the people who post stories where they are very clearly the assholes, but they truly believe they couldn’t be.

The woman who publicly humiliates her sister or friend, the man who gets caught by his wife taking an attractive coworker out to dinner, the mother who insists on making her daughter pay her backend rent after a falling out.

These people either completely lack the ability to think critically about themselves, or they’re so narcissistic they don’t believe anyone else could ever possibly blame them for any given situation. We all know these people, we have to deal with them every day of our lives, and the AITA community is chock full of them.

You can generally spot members of this group by their defensive replies, their increasing agitation as commenters begin to call them out for their often terribly shitty behavior. They’re the ones who will pick fights, gaslight, and nitpick comments, to ensure they can maintain the same narrative they originated with their first post (that nobody believed, anyway).

The other major group is a little sadder when you think about it, but it’s just as necessary to keep the subreddit going. This group is smaller, for the most part, and consists of the victims of the aforementioned group, posting to make sure they’re not crazy.

This would be the woman who finds her husband’s infidelity list and gets called crazy for confronting him on it, the guy whose partner starts crying when he asks her to stop demeaning him all the time, the teenager who’s punished for coming out and bringing shame to their family (in their family’s eyes).

Yes, all of these are actual posts seen on AITA. It’s a community of nightmares.

These posts are generally sadder to read, as you realize that the people posting lack just as much self-awareness as the members of Group One, but in this case, this is generally not their fault. They’ve just been lied to, made to believe they’re crazy, or broken down enough that they’re constantly doubting themselves.

These groups are the yin-and-yang of the AITA world, needing each other in order to exist. They also teach us a lot about self-awareness and the infamous lack thereof.

Finally, of course, there are the more complicated ones, in which people feel immense guilt over things perhaps out of their actions, or question whether a joke in poor taste makes them a worse person than they originally thought. This is the beauty of Reddit overall, y’know?

See, the very nature of posting on a community subreddit like /r/AmITheAsshole implies a certain degree of self-awareness. It means that (in theory) you’re open to the idea that you’ve messed up, or you want to confirm that it’s you – or your sister, or your boyfriend, or whomever – that’s the asshole of the situation.

By consulting the greater community – whether the nearly five hundred thousand on the Twitter page or the over two million to be found on the original subreddit – we’ve taken our personal stories, our inner drama, and gossip, and outsourced the reasoning.

We’ve commodified assholery, commodified our own self-analysis, and that’s pretty much the story of the twenty-first century as far as I’m concerned.

Commenters and lurkers get free, enjoyable stories, we all get our reckoning and perhaps some advice, and the system keeps working. In the case of the Twitter account, there’s even a donut-themed profile (don’t ask why) that provides easy-to-click voting buttons on each of the aforementioned options.

Ideally, the world would have no assholes, and we’d all be nice to each other – right? We all want that, right?

But as long as that doesn’t exist, as long as we’re all spending our lives ruining each others’ and lying, hurting, and burning bridges, we might as well all get some enjoyment out of Reddit together.

Especially if you’re at work burning six hours and you just need some light, fun reading with community involvement.

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3 years ago

i tried to click a link but the ads got in the way. You may want to reth8nk you website.

reddit is not a place to build. I was ran off by a group of unhinged males.