Reddit can be a fun place, where the hottest memes are born and people can connect with other people who like the same hot memes they do, but it has also historically provided an outlet for truly horrible people to connect with other horrible people, rather than simply sitting back and allowing society to shun them like in the old days. Now, in an interview with New York Magazine, Reddit’s former senior vice-president for product Dan McComas succinctly noted that his time at Reddit has “made the world a worse place,” which—despite any good things that Reddit has ever done—is probably an understatement.
It’s not that McComas personally oversaw the introduction of targeted harassment campaigns against women, minorities, and journalists or that he convinced a group of young men that it’s everyone fault but their own that they’re lonely, it’s more that Reddit’s board chose to value “growth at all costs” while he was there. “There was never, in any board meeting that I have ever attended, a conversation about the users, about things that were going on that were bad, about potential dangers, about decisions that might affect potential dangers,” McComas said, adding that the “classic comment” that came up in every board meeting was just “why aren’t you growing faster?”
McComas says that the board wasn’t even directly concerned with making money, they just wanted huge, measurable growth because having “a billion unique visitors a month” means that they have a valuable property that might be worth money someday. Therefore, they focused on bringing in more and more users rather than trying to create policies or systems that would prevent things from becoming dangerously toxic for the people who were already there. That led to Reddit having a reputation among outsiders as being a terrible pit of misery, and McComas thinks it’s too late to ever change that. “if you ask pretty much anybody about Reddit,” he says, “they’re either not going to know what Reddit is, which is the large majority of people, or they’re going to be like, ‘Oh, it’s that place where there’s jailbait.’”
He also says he thinks it’s hypothetically possible for some other community like Reddit (or Facebook or Twitter) to come along and solve the toxicity problem that plagues all the other sites, but it would require a new monetization plan that works “with the users instead of against the users.” He thinks Reddit’s current leadership can keep it going as a successful platform, but not only will it never really solve its problems, “it’s gonna get worse.”