Reddit is a website that should require almost no introduction to any student. Pegged as the front page of the internet, Reddit has communities, or “subreddits,” dedicated to almost any interest possible, from memes to politics. As the 18th-most popular website in terms of global engagement — with me probably taking a significant share of the traffic within the website — and 138,000 active subreddits, out of the 1.2 million subreddits, it should be no surprise that there is an r/berkeley as well, fostering an active sense of community engagement among students and faculty. The description reads simply, “Welcome to r/berkeley,” and yet it belies the true undercurrent of the subreddit. In fact, there have even been posts by the chancellor herself, as she has held Ask Me Anything sessions in which she answered questions about everything from the ballooning student population, her day-to-day life, a “planned” ski lift, among many others. My personal favorite, by u/InfernalWedgie, was “Chancellor Christ, would you rather fight one-horse sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?” to which she responded 100 duck-sized horses.
Of course, there are larger implications to this online community. As many students may know, communication is extremely important in any healthy relationship. The fact that Chancellor Christ finds herself on one tiny facet of the internet completely dedicated to all things is UC Berkeley is absolutely amazing. This breaks down many communication barriers that students may have from visiting the chancellor to something that is more manageable, and it shows that the faculty truly care about all of their students. What I enjoy seeing is that these types of posts from the chancellor are not just a “one-and-done” type of thing, but are instead repeated cases.
Students should use r/berkeley for valuable advice, too. Oftentimes, students can ask questions to faculty or other students about their past experiences with classes, professors or clubs. These types of posts help young students engage with others in the community and learn from people who have gone through the very same things that they plan on doing or going through.
For example, during orientation season there is a “stickied,” or prioritized, post, that helps incoming freshmen ask current UC Berkeley students questions about the campus environment, academics and many other topics. Personally, I have used the subreddit to find information regarding the student culture and social life. The current stickied post, as of the time of writing, is about the ongoing midterm season and Brexit. Of course, among these genuinely helpful posts, users litter s—posts that engage students humorously through events in the community such as the PG&E outage.
Yet at the same time, there are many serious posts. Recently, a student posted regarding their increasing apathy to their academics. The community outpoured in support of them and gave them possible solutions, empathized and were, most importantly, there for them. Other students comment on loneliness or struggles with their courses. Yet again, the community comes out in full force to truly support these students, offering to help or tutor, and always be there for them — even willing to meet up in person at times. In moments like these, when students do not have immediate access to resources like the Tang Center or to important friends or family members, the community provides a like-minded support group. In many ways, this showcases the true sense of unity that the UC Berkeley community has in its caring no matter what. The empathy shown to an absolute stranger is incredible, and it gives you a sense of home — no matter where one may be.
The subreddit marks everyone as a “bear,” dispelling stereotypes in its own internet way. Even with anonymity on the internet and the large number of students on the subreddit, everyone knows how to treat each other with kindness, understanding that we have all or will go through the same growing pains. No matter how competitive, how stressful moments might get, a student always knows that there is always someone for them. Someone to help them laugh, go through shared experiences and just be there for them. r/berkeley in many ways reflects our shared community in its own unique way with all the diverse people connecting with each other through their hopes, dreams and lives. So, if you’re feeling lost or lonely, give r/berkeley a glance. You may just find a fellow Golden Bear with whom you connect with.
Atharva Palande is a freshman and an intended economics major at UC Berkeley.