“Look at the number of cargo shorts here,” remarked the skeptical companion Betabeat had dragged along to the Global Reddit Meetup NYC on Saturday, as we stood on the outskirts of the picnic in Central Park where close to 200 Redditors snacked on chips and soda and mingled in the shade.
As we approached the group congregated around a large sign featuring the Reddit alien logo,
we were invited to join in a game of “Dino Ball.” “It’s the best game ever. Come over and see,” we were advised by a circle of 20-somethings hitting what appeared to be a small green children’s ball with painted teeth. Other picnickers played soccer and tossed Frisbees. Discussion threads about the event had mentioned Super Soakers, though most attendees seemed fairly content chatting in small circles—including Reddit CEO Yishan “sparklepants’ Wong, who hung out at the picnic for about an hour, handing out stickers and taking photos with other Redditors.
The picnic, one of almost 500 meetups that took place on Saturday as part of the 3rd Global Reddit Meetup Day, was described on the social news website as “just a bunch of geeks and nerds hanging out” with the friendly addendum, “we do not care if you are a Redditor or not.”
Despite this disclaimer, attendees seemed incredulous when Betabeat admitted to not spending time on the site regularly. “You said you’ve been on Reddit briefly. How is that even possible?” an employee of the NYU Math Department who frequents r/Astronomy, r/Fitness, and a “couple of music subreddits” asked in disbelief.
“Here’s what you should do. Spend half an hour a day browsing on Reddit every day for a week. Then, after a week, try to stop,” an enthusiastic Redditor in army pants and a tank top said.
Many of Saturday’s picnickers are regulars at weekly Reddit meetups in the city. “I’m kind of a meetup junkie” said Marc Ebuna, who works in IT (“pretty much like everyone on Reddit,” he said) and attends weekly Reddit board-gaming meetups.
Others go to weekly meetups at Peculier Pub in the West Village on Tuesday evenings, where there are reportedly upwards of 50 attendees. “The Redditors usually take over the bar,” a regular informed us. “But we don’t talk about what we saw on the Internet.” He then explained, in detail, the perks of the Men’s Fashion Advice subreddit, r/malefashion. “If you shave your beard, you can post a photo to the thread and ask, ‘is this a good change?’ And people will be like, ‘yeah, man,’” said the Redditor, who didn’t have a beard, though any additional fashion sense was hardly noticeable.
Yet Jacob Shufro, 22, a software engineer at Peek, inc. and one of the event’s organizers told us afterward that the newcomers outnumbered the regulars at Saturday’s picnic. “At the regular meetups, the regulars outnumber the newcomers probably around 2 to 1, but every time we have a picnic we see a huge turnout of new faces. I’d guess this one was 3 or 4 newcomers for every regular.”
John Seto, 28, another one of the event’s organizers noted that this was one of the first times they’d seen subreddits represented at a meetup. Joey Castillo, a mobile app developer came to the picnic wearing an ”I Love Gamers” T-shirt and holding a sign for r/ainbow, an umbrella LGBQT subreddit, to help users find each other. In another area of the picnic area, members of the subreddit r/tall gathered–most of them sitting.
“R/tall, describe yourself in a sentence,” Mr. Seto called out for Betabeat’s benefit. “Yes. Tall,” was the extent of the response.
“We haven’t seen the ‘gonewilders’ here yet, though,” one Redditor remarked with a laugh, referring to r/gonewild, the notorious subreddit where Redditors post nude photos of themselves, which are subsequently upvoted or downvoted.
“Yeah, but they’re definitely here. They just haven’t revealed themselves yet,” another responded jokingly.
“The event was, and I think we all agree on this, very successful,” Mr. Shufro told Betabeat afterwards. “We had the biggest turnout we’ve ever had, the weather was perfect, and everyone seems to have had fun.”
Redditors congregated for most of the afternoon before dispersing around 5 p.m., many heading off to various bars on the Upper West Side, accompanied by their new friends. Others were worn out from an afternoon of socializing. After the event, Mr. Shufro told us that he “went and ate some Ramen noodles, watched Battlestar Galactica, and went to sleep. It was an exhausting day.”