Internet Happy Places

My Internet Happy Place: r/WhatIsThisThing, a Subreddit With Blissfully Lowbrow Appeal

OneZero

A Redditor posts an image of what appear to be grains of rice, small and yellowing and strewn across a plain white bedspread. “These things keep popping up on my bed every day,” they remark. “I wake up every morning or come home at night after work with these little grain like things in my bed. I wipe them off and more show up the next day. My kitten sleeps with me,” they add.

Within hours, someone replies: “They look like tapeworm segments falling out of its [sic] bum. Those segments are the worm laying eggs.”

Behold, the essence of r/WhatIsThisThing, a popular subreddit and my favorite corner of the internet these days. With nearly 2 million subscribers, its purpose is simple: crowdsourcing answers to the question “What is this thing?”

Chalk it up to the pandemic, but my cognitive capacity is a speck of what it used to be. So, rather than plowing through a novel or honing a new hobby, I browse this delightful, mind-numbing subreddit as I’m drifting off to sleep. Some entries are fascinating, while others are mundane, sentimental, and downright disgusting. Members of the 10-year-old forum have posted exciting archaeological finds, hidden surveillance cameras, cryptic ocean blobs, and, more frequently than you’d expect, unearthed explosives from battles long forgotten. “What a wealth of esoteric knowledge,” I think, my brain virtually lobotomized, as I gaze upon someone’s bedsheets absolutely covered in parasitic worm eggs.

That’s not to say r/WhatIsThisThing is without controversy. Typically, though, it involves the sharing of questionable family heirlooms or an ancient object that, according to other Redditors, “belongs in a museum!” Still, compared to other online communities, this subreddit is relatively harmless — perhaps even niceand maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly the kind of internet we need right now.

Staff writer at OneZero covering social platforms, internet communities, and the spread of misinformation online. Previously: VICE

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