Have you caught yourself browsing page 7 of /r/funny for the third time this week – and it’s only Monday? You’re not alone. In May 2018, Reddit overtook Facebook to be the third most popular site in the U.S. (after Google and Youtube) with over 542 million monthly users and over 1.2 million subreddits.
As many of us know, quick 5-minute check of the ‘front page of the internet’ can easily become hours of clicking, scrolling, and commenting.
So why do so many of us waste so much time on Reddit?
The answer lies in the platform’s design and our brain’s biology. Reddit is a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website – essentially a diverse collection of forums focused on a specific topic or theme. Users are able to submit content as well as vote on submitted content to increase or decrease its visibility for the rest of the community – a system that in theory, allows the best content to reach the top.
And with 542 million monthly users and over 1.2 million subreddits, Reddit is a bustling community that can easily trap your brain and focus in short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops.
Developers at companies like Reddit know this and leverage the same neural circuitry as slot machines and cocaine to keep us engaged with their product and coming back for more.
Reddit provides an endless stream of novel content and a sense of community that the brain eventually begins to crave. Like other social media platforms, Reddit stimulates the production of two main chemical rewards – dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine causes us to search, seek, and desire novelty – which naturally makes us curious to explore the constant flow of information from social media timelines. With each new link, page, and up-vote, your brain releases a hit of dopamine – rewarding your behavior and encouraging further interaction.
To add to this pull, Reddit also has a Karma points system – a reputation system that rewards users for submitting popular content. With each up vote, users earn a point that stands as a virtual nod of approval or affirmation. Every upvote gives you a little dopamine hit, and before you know it, you need more and more. This is also why dopamine is the neurotransmitter most linked to addiction, compulsive behavior, and dangerous risk-taking.
The second chemical reward leveraged by Reddit is oxytocin. Humans are social beings that yearn for a sense of community, Reddit provides a platform that allows anonymous strangers to connect and find their tribe. These kinds of online interactions make us feel good by increasing our levels of oxytocin, a neural chemical known for its ability to affect feelings of intimacy and bonding. So when we post, comment, like, or share, and receive the same in return, our oxytocin levels rise and we feel more connected to those around us. The stimulation of social media not only makes us feel good, but leaves us wanting more.
Reddit also serves as a type of refuge from the picture-perfect timelines of other social media platforms. Reddit does not use an algorithm to determine the order of content but rather lets the users of the community decide by voting. Reddit also provides a layer of anonymity via usernames that allows for open and honest communication without worrying about what friends and family might think. As the stories from a recent podcast on NPR showed, Reddit is a way to escape the curated feeds on Facebook and Instagram and get to the heartbeat of human existence.
But just because Reddit encourages dopamine doesn’t mean it’s dangerous and addictive. On the contrary, it’s what makes Reddit even more fun than it already is. However, if you’re like many, the dopamine factor means you’ll need some help avoiding it when you need to get other stuff done.
That’s where Freedom comes in. Freedom can temporarily block distracting websites and apps across all your devices so you can focus on what matters most. With Freedom you can also schedule blocks in advance or create recurring block schedules to help make productivity a habit. You can also use Locked Mode to commit to your block sessions and break your worst habits.
So let’s get started!
Using Freedom Block Sessions
When you use Freedom, you can choose from three block sessions: now, later, and recurring.
Start now is the manual session. To use it, select your block list and enter the length of time you want to focus on your work.
Do you want to preemptively block Reddit? Use the Start later function. It works the same way, but you’ll manually enter the time you want the block to begin and end. Then, click save and Freedom will take care of the rest.
To use a Recurring session, you’ll enter the days you want the block to repeat. If you block Reddit between 4:00 and 5:00 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and click save, then Freedom will automatically keep you away from Reddit at the time and date specified until you say otherwise.
You can also set up multiple recurring sessions and save them to create a completely automated blocking schedule. To do this, just repeat the Recurring session process until you have all the automatic sessions you need.
Here’s an example:
There’s real beauty in the Recurring sessions. Using them can help train your brain to do work during set hours to help enforce new habits to boost your productivity and better manage your internet habit.
How to block Reddit on a computer (Mac + Windows)
If you don’t already have an account, sign up for Freedom and then log-in at Freedom.to.
From your browser-based dashboard your app, choose Add a blocklist and give it a name.
Now, you have three options. If you want to block Reddit only, select it from the list of popular pre-made filters below. Do you want to keep away from all social media including Reddit? Select the Social category filter (and instantly add five more hours to your day).
Once you’ve added all the sites and apps you want to block, give your blocklist a name and click Save. And then select your blocklist name from the tool bar.
Next, select the blocklist you just created. Then select which devices you wish to include in your block session. And finally, select how long you want your session to last. You can start the blocked session immediately, schedule it for later, or set up a recurring session each day.
Then, click start your session and get a dopamine hit from your productivity instead!
How to block Reddit on Android
The average person touches their phone 2,617 times per day – that’s 2,617 opportunities to distract yourself with Reddit. You can block Reddit and eliminate some of the distraction by using the Freedom app on your Android phone.
The Android app allows you to block both the Reddit app and Reddit on your browser – so there’s no way around it!
Open up the Freedom app and log in with your credentials.
Once you’re in, hit the Blocklists button on the app (the badge button on the bottom menu).
Here, you’ll be able to add applications to block. To add the Reddit app to your block list, touch MANAGE. Then, either scroll or use the search tool to find the Reddit app and slide the toggle to the right to turn it on.
Go back to the New Session tab and choose Block Android Apps from your block list. You can then choose Start Now, Start Later, or Recurring.
To block Reddit ASAP, choose Start Now and enter the amount of time you want to block the app. Then, tap Start Session and work away.
Prefer to Start Later? Enter the time you want to start and the session length you prefer, and then hit Create Schedule.
Create a Recurring session by choosing your start and end time and then check the days that you want it to repeat.
We also love the Recurring sessions on mobile devices. Do you wake up in the morning and instantly browse Reddit rather than getting out of bed? A Recurring session will stop that bad habit in its tracks and remind you that it’s time to get up and start your day.
Is your phone working against you? You likely didn’t give Freedom permission.
Head over to Accessibility in Settings and ensure you enable permissions for Freedom.
If you’re still having trouble send us an email or head over to our desktop site to chat and we can troubleshoot together.
Blocking Reddit on iOS
Attention iOS users: Freedom iOS 4.0 is now available for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. But it only blocks websites – not apps.
Back in 2017, Apple booted Freedom from the App Store despite our popularity (1 million downloads, nbd). We went back to the drawing board to re-tool our app, but Apple was unhappy with what we presented. Apple doesn’t like the idea of blocking apps, which means our iOS app can only block content in Safari.
It’s better than nothing, but still – watch this space.
The Reddit community is unlike any other, and it’s not hard to see why so many of us get sucked in. But if you find yourself hitting refresh on Reddit and struggling IRL, you may be spending too much time there.
Freedom blocks Reddit on your browser (on Windows, Mac, and iOS) and the Reddit app (on Android only for now). Plug into a block session, take a few hours off from Reddit, and get back to your life. Your favorite Redditors will always be there waiting for you when you get back.