Over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of my free time learning about other people’s problems. This sounds weird, but let me explain. Reddit, a social media/forum site, is home to a lot of this. There are threads for a variety of things, but two I’m focusing on here are r/Relationships and r/AITA (Am I The Asshole). In these subreddits, users can post their issues and anyone can offer unbiased advice or judgment or feedback.
There are Twitter accounts that cross post some of the more amusing or interesting ones so they can spread to other platforms that way, and there are a lot of YouTube channels that read them out (either by a real person or a computer voice) so people can listen to the content if they don’t want to read and scroll. I’ve consumed a lot of this in the past year, and I find it fascinating. I also read the advice column in the newspaper every day, which has similar content, and this may be more relatable to some of you who have no idea what Reddit is.
In general, I know we look for relatability in media. We want to identify with the heroes and be represented and all that, which is good and valid. But I think on the flip side, we are also drawn to the unrelatable. It’s why I think a lot of TLC and E! shows are so popular because they are very weird and different (at least to my fairly quiet and sheltered life).
I know that people have different lives than I do, but I’ve never really considered that their problems are so wildly different too. I don’t know what it’s like to have a narcissistic mother-in-law or a pathological liar of a friend. I don’t know what it’s like to have no contact with a parent or worry about how I disciplined my child. And yet, I am interested in these issues that people are having and the outcomes. It’s entertaining to consume for me, and I think it still would be even if you did relate to some of these issues.
And maybe I like it because it puts my own life into perspective to some extent. My life is by no means perfect and I’m discontent with many things, but I guess it could be worse, as the internet has proved. Some of the problems people are dealing with are unfortunate, life-ruining things, and I’m lucky that I don’t have to deal with any of it. Furthermore, reading/hearing about some of these things can help me avoid it myself in my life.
I know I’m not alone in enjoying Reddit content like this, but I think it does speak to a larger phenomenon of people being nosy and interested in drama. It’s why ‘spilling tea’ is so popular as a concept and a phrase. There are YouTubers whose whole gig is telling juicy, dramatic storytimes like “My roommates from hell” or “I was stalked by my ex-boyfriend for six years!” and thousands of willing people click to find out how and why and who because it’s interesting. Similarily, we’re taught from a young age that gossip is bad but I know that if a friend came to me with some spicy info about someone, I’d be very quick to listen. Does this make me a bad person? I don’t think so. It makes me human. I think we all like this kind of info, whether we’ll admit to it or not, and the internet has made it very easy to find it and feed that desire in us.
It is win-win in a sense because the people sharing often are looking for help/opinions/clicks and the consumers can offer that as well as be entertained to some extent, so I don’t have a problem with it. It’s one of the benefits of the internet because we are able to connect to a variety of people who exist outside of our lifestyle.
If you’ve never heard of these subreddits or other means of consuming them, I encourage you to check them out, especially if you’re kind of into other people’s problems and lives. Even if you’re not really, it’s escapist entertainment, and these days, we all need that.