When someone says "Social Media," what generally comes to mind are Facebook and Twitter – in the news, explosively expanding, highly influential brands.
But the sheer size of the Internet means less well-known but very popular sites go unnoticed.
A prime example is Reddit.
Reddit bills itself as "the front page of the Internet," and in a way that's what it is.
Reddit users, called Redditors, contribute content by posting links, photos, videos or text about anything to the site. Other users are free to comment on the posts, "upvote" a post if they like it or "downvote" a post if they don't. This has the effect of culling out content people aren't interested in.
The front page of Reddit features some of the most popular content on the site, pulled from a variety of different topical pages known as "sub-Reddits."
These include standard categories like "Politics," "Science," "Music," "Movies" and "World News," and unique ones such as "IAMA," where people who have had unique jobs or careers (this has included actors, writers and political figures, including President Barack Obama) answer questions from the community at large. The "IAMA" name comes from the phrase "I Am A," because posts typically read something like "IAmA Theoretical Particle Physicist, Ask Me Anything."
There are hundreds of sub-Reddits, for just about anything that interests anyone. There are support forums where people can ask questions or get advice on illnesses, automotive repair or photography, to name a few.
Of course, like so many things on the Internet, there's a dark side to Reddit. I've heard it said that Reddit contains both the best and the worst of the Internet, and it's true. If you stick to relatively mainstream sections that are well moderated, you'll be OK, but there are some areas of the site where nearly anything goes, so if you decide to pay the site a visit, consider yourself warned.
In general, if you're easily offended, I'd recommend staying away – but if you've got a relatively thick skin or a good sense of humor, it's a great place to find articles and information you'd likely have trouble digging up by yourself.
Having a Reddit account is not necessary to view Reddit posts, but it is necessary to make them.
Reddit's web address is http://www.reddit.com.
Nick DeLorenzo is director of interactive and new media for The Times Leader. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.