Understanding Reddit: A beginner’s guide to the front page of the internet

What is Reddit? It’s what is lovingly known as the front page of the internet. It’s a place where millions of people go every day to discuss politics, post memes, find porn, and share every odd thought that’s ever occurred to them in the shower. No matter who you are or what you’re into, Reddit has a place for you. From social justice warriors to men’s rights activists and conspiracy theorists, all are accounted for. But many first-timers stare at the front page and wonder how to use Reddit.

While Reddit is easy to navigate once you learn the ropes, it isn’t an intuitive website, and its basic design hasn’t been updated in ages. First-timers often find themselves staring at a page with dozens of links, confusing acronyms, and multiple tabs, all for content they don’t yet understand. If you need a helping hand taking your first steps, here’s our guide for how to use Reddit.

What is Reddit?

what is reddit

When you visit Reddit.com, you’ll see a list of links, which is how Reddit earned the title of “front page of the internet.” Think of Reddit as a massive, high-tech message board. Reddit is all about sharing. Photos, news stories, funny videos, questions for the community—these are the bread and butter of Reddit. However, with 234 million unique users each month, things would get chaotic fast without a little bit of organization. That’s where subreddits come in.

How to use Reddit

What are subreddits?

Subreddits are themed boards for specific kinds of posts, each with a laser-sharp focus. The subreddits you subscribe to make up your Reddit homepage, giving you a collection of content explicitly curated by you for you. Each subreddit link has a comment section for discussion, where users can argue or talk about the subject at hand.

There are thousands of subreddits. If you see someone refer to r/, they’re talking about the address of a specific Subreddit, which is formatted like this: www.reddit.com/r/NameOfSubreddit. Upon signing up, every user is subscribed to 29 default subreddits. These include r/movies (movies), r/aww (cute animals), r/news (current events), and more. As you navigate the world of Reddit, you will discover new subreddits by searching the site or by finding links to other people’s posts. You can find the defaults listed here.

Moderators, otherwise referred to as “mods” by the Reddit community, are volunteer moderators for respective subreddit. Mods are in charge of creating and maintaining community rules, controlling layout out of the subreddit, and troubleshooting any problems.

Upvoting and downvoting

Users can “upvote” or “downvote” posts in a subreddit based on how much they like or dislike them. Though most people take this to mean whatever petty whim suits them at the moment. This is a democracy, and democracy can be ugly.

Voting determines where your post shows up on each subreddit and your homepage. Topics with more votes rank above subjects with fewer ones. Like message boards, subreddits have their own rules set by the moderators. It’s important to pay attention to the laws of each subreddit you participate in. Moderators can ban you for any reason they want, and some of them rule with an iron fist. Be smart, play by the rules, and do your best.

What are subreddit tabs?

At the top of each page on Reddit, you will see a selection of tabs marked Hot, New, Rising, Controversial, Top, Gilded, and Wiki. Here’s what they mean.

Hot: Hot posts are the posts that have been getting the most upvotes and comments recently on that subreddit.

New: This section sorts posts by the time they were submitted to the site. If you’re curious about the latest posts without caring about how people are voting, head to the New tab.

Rising: Rising is slightly different than Hot. While Hot shows you where all the activity currently is, Rising shows you where it will be next. These are the posts in the early stages of exploding, so if you’re looking to join the conversation before your post might get lost in thousands of comments, Rising is for you.

Controversial: Hot and Rising show you where the conversation is, but downvotes still matter in the rankings. Controversial shows the posts that are getting lots of activity, both good and bad. If a post is consistently upvoted and downvoted into oblivion, it will find a home in Controversial.

Top: Curious about the history of your favorite subreddit? Top is where you’ll find the biggest posts of all time..See the most upvoted posts in this tab.

Gilded: Reddit allows users to give each other Reddit gold for a great posting, typically when it’s particularly funny or educational. You’ll find these stellar posts under Gilded.

Wiki: Some subreddits have their own Wiki, a place containing necessary information and rules about the community at hand. While you can usually find important information about a Subreddit in the sidebar of its main page, the Wiki can be an invaluable resource for navigating some of the site’s more complicated communities.


What is Reddit gold?

One of the ways Reddit pays for itself is in so-called Reddit gold. You can purchase this valueless digital currency to unlock new features on Reddit and help support the company that helps waste your time at work. You can buy gold for yourself or gift it to other users for particularly good posts. Here’s how to use Reddit gold to your advantage.

Turn off ads: Don’t want to see advertising during your time on Reddit? Buy a little gold and spare yourself banner ads across the site.

Themes: Some subreddits have their own themes and designs, but if the general Reddit template bores you, Gilded users can choose between different themes to personalize their reading experience.

New comment highlighting: Reddit is a fountain of information, but sometimes it’s hard to remember where you left off when you return to a thread. It’s easy to get lost when thousands of posts appear in a matter of hours. Gilded Reddit users can highlight where new comments are since the last time they visited. For in-depth discussions, this is worth the cost of admission.

Remember links across computers: Gilded Reddit users can keep track of the links they visit, no matter what computer they’re using as long as they’re logged into their account. This feature sadly doesn’t work on Reddit’s mobile app, but it’s still an incredible way to use the desktop site.

For the rest of the features that come with Reddit gold, read the Daily Dot’s complete breakdown.

How to use Reddit slang

Reddit AMA and IAmA: Subreddits where people can ask anything of significant people. They’re mostly the same but contain different content. AmA stands for “Ask Me Anything.” r/IAmA is the original Ask Me Anything subreddit and stands for I Am A. r/IAMA tends to be more for specific people, like Barack Obama who has one of the top voted question and answer sessions of all time on Reddit. r/AMA, on the other hand, is often for less famous people in unique situations, like “I have: borderline personality disorder AMA” or “I’ve driven down *all* of Detroit’s roughly 2,100 streets. Ask me anything.”

AMAA: Ask Me Almost Anything

Brave or So Brave: Most of the time someone calls you brave on Reddit, they’re being sarcastic. Virtue signal at your own risk.

Cakeday: A Reddit user’s Cakeday isn’t their real birthday but their Reddit birthday, aka the day they joined the site. If you see a little cake icon next to someone’s username, it’s their Cakeday.

Crosspost: A crosspost is a post that has been posted on more than one subreddit.

DAE: Does anyone else.” Users post this to seek out a consensus on an idea in a discussion thread.

Edit: Transparency and consistency are essential on Reddit. Users who change their comments after initially posting them mark this by posting “Edit,” often with an explanation of why they changed their original comment.

ELI5: “Explain it like I’m five years old” is a request for someone to explain something in simple terms. This theme has its own subreddit.

FTA: When a Reddit user includes an excerpt from a linked article, they’ll add FTA, which means “From the Article,” before their post.

FTFY: “Fixed that for you.” When a user corrects your comment, usually in a small and humorous way to highlight your faults as a human being.

GW: “Gone wild,” a distinction for amateur pornography on Reddit’s various communities. There are a myriad number of Gone Wild sections on the site. Go forth and enjoy some nudes.

Hivemind: Refers to the overall community of Reddit and its beliefs.

ITT: “In this thread.” Usually a sarcastic breakdown of what’s happening in the current thread.

Karmawhore: A negative term for someone who posts links who pander to the likes and whims of Reddit users to raise their own Karma.

MRA: “Men’s rights activist.” Part of a social movement that’s goal is to address perceived discrimination against men or to troll feminists, depending on your perspective. Be careful of their subreddits. They can pile on and swarm those who anger them.

Neckbeard: A pejorative term to describe a stereotypical Reddit user, as in a dirty basement dweller who doesn’t take the time to shave their neck before entering society. Most Redditors view neckbeards as people who will complain about everything else in the world without acknowledging their faults.

NSFW: “Not safe for work.” If you see this on a post, there’s a good chance you could get fired for opening the link on an office computer. Be careful on Reddit. It is often the Wild West when it comes to unfiltered content.

NSFL: Beware these links, as they stand for “Not safe for life.” Often they lead to gore, extreme gross-out pornography, or other horrific images. Reddit is a place where it’s easy to see a murder if you’re not careful. Beware these links.  

OP: “Original poster” is used when a user is directly commenting towards or referring to the original poster in a thread.

TIL: “Today I learned.” This term refers to both a Subreddit and a theme where a user explains what they learned in a specific thread.  

TIFU: “Today I fucked up” refers to both a subreddit and a theme where a user explains how they ruined their life on a specific day.  

The_Donald: Refers to the community of die-hard President Donald Trump supporters in the Reddit community. Known for brigading threads, piling on users, and causing chaos, Reddit has cracked down on these users in the past year, though they remain a dominant force on the site.

how to use reddit
Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

Reddiquette: The basic rules and decorum of the Reddit community. If you have a question about how to behave on Reddit, there’s an FAQ to help you along.

Relevant Username: Used when a user’s name and their posting match up. Sometimes this relates to a good Samaritan who helps someone out and has a username like “Goodguy420.” More often, however, it symbolizes a user who says something creepy and has a user name like “CreepyFellaThisIsWhoIAm69.”

RTFA: “Read the fucking article” is posted when someone starts commenting on a thread but clearly didn’t read the article a thread is dealing with.

Shadow-ban: Shadow-banning is the practice of banning a user from having their posts be viewable by other users without the poster’s knowledge. Shadow-banned users can still read the site, but the posts they make will be invisible to other users. If you think you’ve been shadow-banned, head to this FAQ to see what to do.

SJW: “Social justice warrior” is the opposite of a MRA. Almost universally used as an insult on Reddit, this term describes anyone who asks people to be kinder to anyone who isn’t a white male.

TL;DR: “Too long don’t read” is used after a users posts a giant block of text assuming everyone else is going to want to read their diatribe. A TL;DR is when another user inserts a summary of what the block of text says.   

How to use Reddit karma

Reddit karma comes in two flavors: post and comment. Your post karma is your standard Reddit score, used to see how many times people have upvoted the links you’ve submitted on the site. Your comment karma, on the other hand, is based on how many times people upvote your comments in threads. Karma has no real impact on your Reddit use. However, some users may judge how seriously to take you based on your karma score.

What are the best subreddits?

Looking to get a headstart in your Reddit life? You have an overwhelming array of options. Here are just a few of the best subreddits to start following.

r/DIY: This Reddit community is for people with a thirst for homebrewed projects. Whether you’re already a builder, or just want admire other people’s projects, DIY is a nearly endless resource of creativity and fun. If politics and arguments bother you, DIY is a lovely respite.

r/100yearsago: Reddit is a cornucopia of historical knowledge, and 100 Years Ago is a personal favorite. This subreddit shows you what events and history were happening precisely 100 years ago on any given day.

r/relationships: Having problems in your love life, or just want to watch other people’s drama? r/relationships is where the community goes to talk about matters of the heart, for better or worse. The advice users find is a mixed bag, but often the community has a heart for troubled souls, doling out thoughtful advice and personal anecdotes to guide lovelorn posters through their issues.  

r/photoshopbattles: It should come as no surprise that many in a community as deeply ingrained in online culture as Reddit are talented in the art of Photoshop. r/photoshopbattles is where users go to compete in goofy challenges to test their editing prowess. Users take a funny image and do their best to produce the best Photoshopped parody. Be careful drinking coffee while reading—you might just spit laughing.

r/nosleep: Gather ’round the campfire with your laptop and this collection of terrifying short stories. r/nosleep is a nightmare factory and home to some of the best creepypasta the internet has ever uncovered. Just make sure you lock the doors before you start to read. You wouldn’t want someone sneaking up on you.

r/personalfinance: Almost everyone stresses their finances at some point, but Reddit’s r/personalfinance community is here to help. From tax tips to investing information, this subreddit provides a wealth of information on padding your bank account—provided you’re willing to listen. Like all message boards, some information you’ll find is better than others. But there’s invaluable financial advice to discover for free if you’re willing to do your homework.

r/AnimalsBeingJerks: Nature is the greatest comedian of all. If you need proof, look no further than this hysterical collection of GIFs and images of animals being jerks. Cats, dogs, birds, reptiles—all are equally rude in this glorious home for the silly side of nature.

r/WritingPrompts: Reddit’s creative community isn’t limited to Photoshop. This subreddit for writers provides daily themes for short stories and space to post them. Users provide feedback, promote each other’s work, and argue about approaches. Even if you never post your own work, it’s a beautiful resource for burgeoning writers.

r/bestof: With so many threads on Reddit it’s easy to miss great comments, but r/bestof has your back. This subreddit collects the top-voted comments across the site, giving you a window into the mind of the community and saving you from digging through threads.

r/conspiracy: Recommending this subreddit is not the same thing as endorsing it. But r/conspiracy is a fascinating place, a hive of insane ideas and outlandish theories that only occasionally get it right. More often than not, it’s a space for the site’s darkest minds to cook up absurd theories about the world. But for anyone who’s stayed up too late listening to Coast to Coast AM, r/Conspiracy is a treasure trove of ideology.  

r/AskReddit: The best part of Reddit is the community. For all its warts, Reddit is a gathering place for people across every demographic of humanity and their perspectives. r/AskReddit is where that diversity shines, as it’s a collection of personal stories and ideas based on questions asked by its users. From insight into the lives of sex workers to funny family stories, r/AskReddit, it’s easy to lose hours reading these thoughtful, hysterical, and touching stories. Just be careful, as sometimes these threads can be incredibly dark. If you see an NSFW or NSFL tag, trust that it’s there for a reason.

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.