If everyone’s Spotify #2020Wrapped stories seem to suggest that all we did this year was stay in our own apartments, experiencing at least a dozen different kinds of anxiety, then Reddit’s 2020 Year in Review just proves it.
The company added up all of the new posts, angry upvotes, retaliatory downvotes, and overall engagement with the site between January 1 and early November, and the numbers just seem to prove that 1) everybody’s screentime has increased dramatically this year, and 2) we all went through an “I’m baking a loaf of sourdough” phase.
This year, there were 52 million active daily users on the site, which is a 44 percent year-over-year (YoY) increase. There were also 303.4 million posts during the first 11 months of the year—up 52.4 percent from 2019—which comes out to around 11 new posts every single second. Those posts collected 2 billion comments and 49.2 billion upvotes.
Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic dominated the discussion, and led to a significant amount of user engagement in communities that related to staying at home, socially distancing, and saving money. The words “COVID,” “COVID-19” and “coronavirus” were mentioned more than 50.2 million times, COVID was the most discussed topic on r/WorldNews, and the third most popular subreddit of the year based on YoY activity was r/coronavirus. (The top sub was r/distantsocializing, a Reddit Public Access Network community that encouraged users to connect and engage with each other.)
Three of the moderators of r/coronavirus are scientists, and have been overseeing the community since well before the first-first wave. They also deserve some kind of medal for their service, from removing memes and misinformation, to refereeing mask and lockdown-related debates, to verifying the sources of the almost 200 studies that have been posted.
“I joined in January. We honestly had only 1,000 people,” a moderator named u/secretagenticebat said. “No one in science was involved with these conversations online. At that point it was less seeing misinformation as it was seeing unanswered questions and answering them […] Once it got to the U.S., everything changed. It’s a constant conversation.”
In Reddit’s ‘Community Reflections,’ the r/coronavirus mods also said that they’ve seen a shift in subscribers’ moods, transitioning from “interest and fear” in the early spring to a kind of apathy that may or may not be reflected in the ever-increasing case numbers. “Everyone is tired and angry,” moderator u/justcool393 added.
The effects of the pandemic were reflected elsewhere on the platform too: there was an honestly heartbreaking 48,286 percent YoY increase in activity—measured by the total number of posts and comments—in r/runemployment, a 612 percent increase in r/homegym, and an 378.8 percent increase in r/sourdough, and the amount of activity in r/needafriend doubled compared to last year. (There was also an 82.6 percent jump in the amount of posts in r/OldRecipes, and the most popular vintage recipe of the year was for “depression-era peanut butter bread,” a post title that works if you’re talking about the 1920s kind of depression, or the ‘I haven’t left my house in seven weeks’ depression.)
The protests that followed George Floyd’s death also resulted in a 9,972 percent increase in the number of posts and comments in r/blacklivesmatter, a community that was originally created six years ago. “Before George Floyd, every time there was an incident, we had a couple of people come over to read the news, but they never really stayed,” moderator u/TheYellowRose said. “We were outnumbered in the comments by trolls and racists.”
As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, she said that an increasing number of users came to the sub to get information about how to safely protest, and about how to become more engaged and active in their own communities. That last one has become one of the sub’s goals, going forward. “I don’t want you to just sit and look at Reddit,” TheYellowRose added. “Take what you learned from Reddit and go apply it to the real world.”
Even the most upvoted posts of 2020 were influenced by… well, 2020 itself. The year’s top post with more than 406,000 upvotes was a throwback pic shared by Rick Astley—yeah, actual Rick Astley—that he said he’d found during lockdown. The rest of the top five included memeing a reformed flat-earther; a video of Minnesota cops firing paint rounds at residents standing on their own property following a Black Lives Matter demonstration; a picture of toilet paper hoarders in mid-March; and a video of New York Police Union President Mike O’Meara complaining about the way cops are treated, intercut with footage of officers physically assaulting civilians.
Finally, another community that saw significant growth this year was r/amitheasshole, which had a 53.7 percent increase in activity. “We’ve definitely seen a big increase in traffic this year with more people staying home and with tensions higher than usual,” one mod said. “People are having the same interpersonal conflicts they always have.”
Except—let’s be honest—after being stuck at home for the better part of the year, with no nights out and nothing on the calendar to look forward to, we’re all the asshole.