Last week, when redditor FeliciaMaria posted a video of a methamphetamine addict, the post quickly shot to the front page of Reddit. It was some of the most challenging material surfaced by the social news site’s collective hivemind—showing that the Reddit community gravitates to serious issues as well as lighthearted fare.
And it unexpectedly brought help where none was expected.
The video was difficult for many to watch. The woman twitches and gyrates nervously, walking in circles, out of her mind and clearly in pain. Her neck has been violently burned by the sun.
But the disturbing video wasn’t posted for some sort of odd voyeuristic pleasure, like a lot of content online.
FeliciaMaria posted it, she wrote, because she’s an addict, and it scared the hell out of her.
On the Internet, stories and comment threads can disappear from the collective conscious as quickly as they appear.
But there can often be more to a post than meets the eye. And on social sites like Reddit, where users can send private messages to one another, the discussion can go on long past that evanescent homepage flash -- and it often moves offline.
In an email to the Daily Dot, FeliciaMaria said she has struggled with alcoholism since she was a teenager, and also believes she is addicted to cocaine, ecstasy, and sleeping pills. She is a 30 year-old single mother, living in a small town in Georgia. She doesn’t work and is supported by her family. (FeliciaMaria asked to use her Reddit pseudonym because of an ongoing legal dispute with her ex-husband).
She never expected the video to have the effect it did.
“My intentions were, at the time, to post the video, make a few comments and move on,” FeliciaMaria wrote in an email to the Daily Dot. “So, I wasn't looking for help nor was I looking to tell my story. . . . Help came to me. And people started sharing their stories.”
A lot of stories. So even as the post began its steady march off the front page, discussions continued -- of methamphetamine and cocaine addiction, alcoholism, and the loss of loved ones.
One poster’s comment on the original thread was so popular that he launched his own question-and-answer session, which in turn gathered 2,181 comments.
The poster, s0ck, said he was addicted to methamphetamines for two years. He’s been clean for six years, he said, though “I haven't felt joy or happiness in a very long time, the best I can get is amusement.”
FeliciaMaria and s0ck, who also lives in Georgia, have since exchanged messages.
“He's helped me see that, if I try, I can overcome my problems, too,” she said.
Addiction, of course, can’t be solved by Reddit’s good intentions. It’s a complicated disease, and there’s no critical mass of comments or private messages that can cure it.
But at the very least, it’s connected FeliciaMaria with a new, online support system she never had.
“I've received, many, life stories, links to online sources, book suggestions, blunt emails, and pleas for me to stop,” she said.
“Even if that video didn't help the woman in it, I'm sure it's helped me,” she added.