Rules and Gameplay
The rules and directions for this game is very simple:
- Navigate to the subreddit r/Askreddit
- Identify a new or rising post asking a question that pertain to opinions, personal anecdotes or anything not about factual information or hypothetical situations
- To the best of your ability and using any available tools or resources, reply to the post (ideally using a burner account) with a completely fabricated yet convincing and seemingly genuine answer
- Wait a day and return to your comment and see how much upvotes your fake post have accrued
While most of the examples we saw in tactical media that relates to the internet are somewhat dated, the social commentary they sent are still as relevant now as ever: the uncertainty of who is on the other end, the murky nature of the truthfulness of anything you see online, and just how easy it is for it to be subverted or compromised without you noticing. With those elements in mind, I chose my intervention to take place on reddit, a (mostly) anonymous online forum that frequently see the three previously mentioned elements at play. Reddit is known for its users’ (redditors) hive-mind like echo chambers, and an elitist, know-it-all and often very hypocritical attitude on every subject and opinion imaginable. One thing that especially stands out is that redditors often point out the flaws of other social media sites – that they are riddled with spam and bots, promote misinformation, use pervasive algorithms, have ineffective moderation – to assert how much superior reddit is, even though it suffers from the same problems.
There are many subreddits where users can post questions or personal stories for answers, discussion or advice, and all of them are infamously known to contain made up stories, reposts, incorrect “facts”, “baits“ designed to spark outrage or to farm upvotes, and some combinations of the above. Yet for many of these posts, often despite being called out, still get enough upvote to be pushed onto the front page. My game/experiment seek to contribute by fanning the flames of this problem to see just how easy it is to make things up and to fool others, so I chose to conduct this game on r/Askreddit, one of the largest community on the website with over 40 million users and posts regularly getting tens of thousands of upvotes. There is no limit to what or how you create your response to a post, including copying someone else’s reply to a similar question from a long time ago, to using AI such as chatGPT to generate answers – both have become increasingly common on the website.
Other than the often repeated “don’t trust everything you read online” bit, the other problem I want to raise – which of course also isn’t exclusive to reddit – is the nature of these kinds of online content and how we are consuming them: as most of the posts and replies are about opinion or personal anecdotes, how much do we really care about the authenticity of them? Are we reading these posts to genuinely engage with others’ opinions, or are we just reading for a quick laugh? All of us are ultimately vulnerable to misinformation, yet we still have to place some amount of intrinsic trust into other strangers online – no matter how much we tell ourselves “don’t believe everything”. And since some of the things we see and read may never be truly verified, what do we make of this fact?
Unfortunately the result of this game/experiment is mixed, as none of the posts got anywhere near a large amount of upvotes and barely any engagement. This is somewhat expected however, as luck plays a massive role in whether your reply or the post you replied to “takes off”. Repeat enough times, it is almost certain one of the posts will make it to the top.
The most successful posts:
talking about the dangers of garage door springs is a reddit classic that pops up in every single thread that asks a question like this one
this lengthy reply is almost completely copied verbatim from under another similar question months ago, and it also got a reply!
other completely made up scenarios