Reddit, “The Front Page of the Internet”, is more often thought of as a place to waste time watching cat videos than as a fluid and informative discussion forum. The website features thousands of smaller online communities dubbed “subreddits”, which range from superfluous communities like r/birdswitharms (featuring poorly photoshopped pictures of birds flexing their biceps) to more serious communities like r/PoliticalDiscussion or r/literature. Reddit is an entirely user driven site, meaning that there is no team of Reddit employees working to produce content for the site’s visitors. Rather, every link, photo, or story shared on the site is submitted by one of the site’s millions of anonymous users, and other redditors vote on the quality or aptitude of the content to determine what links are shown on the front page. The voting system is binary, with users only able to award +1 point to a post or subtract -1 point from a post. The cumulative score of each post is displayed next to the link. Such an open ended yet simplistic forum is perfect for capturing the essence of international soccer fandom in all types of media.
R/worldcup features all news, pictures, videos, and discussion pertaining to the world’s greatest sports tournament. Most sports communities on reddit form an identity based off of what the user base likes to upvote (awarding a post +1 point), with subreddits that feature primarily news stories (as in r/nfl), mainly pictures and videos (r/nba), or mainly discussion between redditors (r/collegebasketball). At first glance, the community seems to be centered around sharing news pertaining to the upcoming 2018 world cup, and occasionally discussing the 2022 Qatar cup. Some stories are about individual teams and their chances at the title, while others take on more political issues such as the controversy surrounding construction labor in Qatar. As of right now, the subreddit consists mostly of short questions redditors ask about the World Cup, with a few articles on the front page discussing team’s jersey releases.
When you first visit the subreddit, the posts are sorted by the default rating metric, or what is “hot”. Hot posts are defined as recently submitted links that receive a high percentage of positive feedback (or more redditors “upvoting” the post than “downvoting”) without necessarily having high cumulative point scores. Other ways to sort posts are by “new”, “rising” (posts that are being upvoted at a rapid pace), controversial (posts that are receiving almost as many downvotes as upvotes), and “top” (the most upvoted posts from the subreddit’s history).
This subreddit is rather unique in that it’s main focus is on an event that only comes around once every 4 years whereas most other subreddits have a relatively consistent stream of new content and discussion topics. As such, visitor frequency (and thus content scores) drops precipitously in between times of live world cup play. When I visited the site on February 28th, the average post on the front page had 10-50 upvotes. In comparison, the top posts from the 2014 world cup could reach as many at 5,000-10,000 upvotes. The subreddit will most definitely see an increase in user traffic as the 2018 world cup approaches.
The audience of this subreddit includes soccer fans from around the world, but also most likely reflects the young, male-dominated userbase that reddit has as a whole. The user demographics of this subreddit are expressed by the fact that while the majority or individual posts are intellectual and pertinent, the most highly-rated posts are memes, gifs, or other lower quality content that is good for a quick laugh. In fact, three of the top five posts of all time on r/worldcup are still images joking about Germany’s 7-1 defeat of Brazil in the 2014 world cup. Other top posts in the subreddit’s history include uplifting stories about underdog teams from the 2014 world cup, or stunning images and highlights from important matches. On the whole, r/worldcup adds just about everything from bad puns to in-depth analysis to the international soccer discourse.
One of the best examples of high-effort content on r/worldcup is one redditor’s letter to Coca-Cola regarding their stance on human rights abuses in the Qatar 2022 cup. The mega-sponsor’s silence in response to stadium construction dangers stirred action amongst informed soccer fans, and stories like this are perfect examples of what a casual, user-friendly forum such as reddit can do to spread activism in soccer.
There is beauty in chaos, and the random, anonymous-user-submitted content on Reddit can be informative or funny, or occasionally even enlightening and inspiring. R/worldcup may not consistently offer high quality soccer discussion, but it will always be a great way for casual fans to keep up on the biggest news in world cup soccer, share funny videos with their friends, and expand the reach of the world’s greatest sport.