This is an installment of Reading Reddit, a Slate pop-up blog about Reddit.
A place where well-heeled Redditors can relax and converse far away from the riff-raff. Little golden top hats next to your username. A “robobutler” bot to fetch your virtual martini upon request.
Welcome to the Lounge, a secret haven for Reddit’s one-percenters—and an example of the empty consolations of online wealth.
Let me explain. Reddit earns money in part by selling optional memberships called “Reddit gold.” Purchasing Reddit gold—it currently costs $3.99 per month, though this price will soon rise—allows you to avoid ads, enhance the site’s functionality, and personalize your Reddit “snoo” avatar, among other benefits. You can also dispense Reddit gold to other users as a measure of thanks or appreciation for their commentary. This is the Reddit equivalent of a double high-five, or perhaps the sticker your kindergarten teacher gave you for not drooling on your homework.
However you obtain it, Reddit gold also grants you access to the exclusive Lounge—r/Lounge, that is—a private subreddit reserved exclusively for Reddit gold-holders. If you don’t have gold you can’t get in, which can spark intense curiosity among non-gilded users about what, exactly, the Lounge is like. On the official Reddit gold page, the Lounge is described as “a super-secret members-only community that may or may not exist.” I can confirm that it does exist, and that, like many rich-people things, it is very boring.
As lounges go, the Lounge is on par with the Amtrak lounge at Penn Station, except with nicer people and fewer mice. “The super-secret hang out for esteemed gentlefolk,” reads the subreddit’s internal description. The banner on the main page resembles dark, pebbled leather, with the words “The Lounge” inscribed in glittering gold script. Users can deploy a suite of specialized “rich person” emoticons, such as “caviar again?” or “How uncouth.” Habitués of the subreddit often sound like they’re auditioning to play the Howells in a Gilligan’s Island remake. It’s all very silly.
The rules of the Lounge are simple and are aimed at maintaining decorum. “Be civil, polite, and courteous” is the first rule, and apparently for a long time the subreddit was filled with jerks who took the “old money” ethos too seriously and were notoriously rude to new Loungers. Rule No. 2 implores Loungers to “not beg for gold or ask for/offer upvotes,” since that would presumably be tacky. Members are also implored to respect each other’s privacy and ensure that what happens in the Lounge stays in the Lounge.
But the truth is that not much happens in the Lounge. Just like most private clubs, the exclusivity is the selling point, far more so than any actual things going on inside. There’s a recurring thread where new members recount the means by which they were gifted Reddit gold. (“Got my first gold for expressing general disdain for Paul Blart and Kevin James lol, the good fight must be fought,” wrote one user, a true national hero.) In another recurring thread, users whose gold is about to expire bid farewell to the subreddit. “Goodbye everyone! This was my second month, second time getting gold, remember me fondly,” one user wrote recently. “Wait, if I received gold, it lasts only a month? 😟” wrote another. Easy come, easy go.
The rest of the threads in the subreddit are uniformly genial and conversational. People post about life events, request advice, attempt jokes. “I would appreciate some advice as I attempt to return to my old swimming team,” one thread begins. “My keyboard at work had a fingernail in it,” begins another, thus prompting other users to reply with their own stories of gross workplace equipment. (“I started a job a while back at a call center. The cubicle I was assigned to had boogers stuck ALL OVER the bottom of the desk.”) You will find no drama just about anywhere in the Lounge.
But there’s also no discernable value there, either. The Lounge is a nice respite from the rest of Reddit, but it’s a pretty lackluster perk for gold-holders. (That said, if you are given gold by virtue of something that you post in the Lounge, you gain access to an even more exclusive lounge called the MegaLounge. If you are gilded in the MegaLounge, you gain access to—you guessed it—the MegaMegaLounge, and so on and so forth. Do not be tempted by this race to the top; the acquisitive lifestyle is a hollow one.) The Lounge is one of the few subreddits where people gather not out of some common interest, but because of a shared status that isn’t even a status. Private clubs, in the outside world, are populated by rich people who like to be around others of their own caste, people who share the same complaints about marginal tax rates and yacht-docking fees. The Loungers have little in common other than a shared interest in Reddit and the knowledge that someone, somewhere, once deemed their commentary to be worth $3.99. What’s the point?