“I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.'” -Eduardo Galleano (“Soccer in Sun and Shadow”)
Reddit is an online community made up of over 100 million users sharing content. The site is organized into countless subreddits, each about a different topic, ranging from interesting Wikipedia pages, to knitting, to personal stories of petty revenge. The site is completely user-driven, with all content being submitted by users and then being voted on by users. If they like it, they will “upvote” a post, and if they don’t, they will “downvote,” meaning the most visible posts are all decided by users. The algorithm used to sort content is a well-kept secret, so as to avoid users trying to game the system and monopolize the top content. But however it works, the algorithm results in a constantly changing landscape to the page and often it’s the case that the top posts from an hour earlier are nowhere to be found in the current top posts.
r/SoccerGIFs is, predictably, a subreddit devoted to GIFs of the game. As of this writing, there are just over 1000 subscribers to this subreddit. Users submit GIFs, repeating short video clips, that they deem are worth sharing with the world. Like Galleano, many people watch soccer for that one moment of brilliance. This subreddit is a compilation of all of those moments. As described above, the top posts are constantly changing, giving users a plethora of new, visually-pleasing clips to watch at any given time. While the GIFs are usually goals, there are also cases of impressive dribbling skills or outstanding defensive play during matches. One of the best parts is that often some of the highest rated GIFs are from lesser known leagues or lower divisions, games that you wouldn’t normally be able to see.
The GIF format leaves little room for bias for individual clips. There is neither commentary nor opinion, simply beauty. And on top of that, since the rankings are user-generated, there is no agenda or ulterior motive from those who post or for those posts at the top of the page. While it might be the case that there is no bias in an individual clip, the clips that reach the top of the page do shed light on some biases that are shared by the soccer-loving community. Since the rankings are user-generated, there is a slight bias toward the major teams, because naturally users will “upvote” their preferred teams and Barcelona has a bigger following than Brighton and Hove Albion, for example. It seems that a moment from a lower-level game needs to be exceptionally brilliant in order to reach the top whereas a simple routine goal (a soccer oxymoron) in a big game will have a much easier time registering a lot of views. Perhaps people are vain and prefer to “upvote” moments that they saw live, giving bigger leagues and bigger matchups an inherent advantage. Another bias is the lack of women on the front page. Stephanie Roche finished runner-up in Puskas Award voting, the award for best goal of the year, showing that women are, of course, equally capable of producing beauty. But GIFs from female players are few and far between. This suggests a sexist bias from the general population of r/SoccerGIFs users.
The target of this media is soccer fans, but in particular younger soccer fans. Prolific Internet users, especially redditors, are typically in the 18-45 demographic and are primarily male. On top of that, this type of media, GIFs, is a relatively new format and conforms to two primary characteristics preferred by younger audiences: quick and visual. Millenials are known for their short attention spans and GIFs appeal to that because the clips are usually under 10 seconds. Older soccer fans, however, might protest this form of media. There is an argument to be made that the joy of watching soccer is in the buildup and the constant disappointment of an empty result. The frequent failures make the rare successes that much greater. In this particular site, it’s all but certain that the top posts will result in a success, often a goal, so it’s possible that the joy and excitement are muted because the outcome is already known. On top of that, the link to each GIF also gives away the outcome, since the title is usually a description of the highlight.
While I know I’m a millenial and may be biased, I’d argue that this argument is invalid. Perhaps this is due to my commonplace instant gratification, but beauty is beauty. I don’t need hours of monotony to fully enjoy a brief spectacle, and in fact I’d argue that it’s more entertaining to watch five clips from five games around the world in under a minute than it is to watch a match for ninety minutes that may or may not include a moment or two of brilliance. It’s impossible to watch every game and this is the best site to see the best moments of just about every game on the planet.
“And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.” -Eduardo Galleano (“Soccer in Sun and Shadow”)