Analyzing My Reddit Usage
A data-driven approach to achieving my New Year's Resolution of reducing my online time.
One of my new year's resolutions was to spend less time online. This includes time on Reddit—despite my love for the website. Gone are the days when I went through several websites to get the latest news about my favorite topics. Now, I rely on Reddit’s algorithm to feed me the content I need as I scroll down. However, I’ve found myself scrolling too much, and I knew I had to take some action.
With January behind us, I decided to investigate whether I had successfully cut down my Reddit usage for this month compared to January 2022. To investigate this, I turned to RescueTime, a software I use to track my online activity. While the platform provides a dashboard with helpful insights that could answer my question, I exported the data and used the R programming language to conduct a deeper analysis that explores how much time I spent on various subreddits and how my habits changed.
RescueTime’s dataset consists of one row per page viewed and five columns. Of these, only three were relevant to this experiment:
- Date: The date when I visited the page.
- Time Spent (seconds): How much time I spent on the visited page.
- Activity: The title of the visited page.
The screenshot below presents two of the dataset’s rows. The first row is a 1002 seconds long visit to Reddit’s main page on January 13, and the second is a 24 seconds long visit to the PKMNTCGDeals subreddit on January 13.
I can use the content from the activity column to identify whether the entry corresponds to a visit to Reddit’s main page or a page viewed on a subreddit.
For example, the string "Reddit - Dive into anything” (seen in the screenshot’s first row) is a visit to the main page, and the pattern “colon followed by a term,” where “term” is the subreddit (seen in the screenshot’s second row, e.g., “: PKMNTCGDeals”), is a page viewed on that subreddit. To tailor the dataset to my needs, I wrote a couple of regexes to extract the subreddit's name, removed entries corresponding to visits to the settings and user's pages (to leave the rows denoting visits to the actual content), and filtered out rows representing subreddits that I visited fewer than five times.
I spent 13.51 hours on Reddit in January 2022. During this time, I visited 90 different subreddits and Reddit’s main page. The latter saw the most activity, with 4.65 hours amassed from 94 visits. Then, there’s the Formula 1 subreddit, or r/formula1 in Reddit-speech, with 1.22 hours and 86 visits, and Ask Reddit, with 0.88 hours accumulated across 31 visits. Figure 1 shows the top 10 frequented subreddits (including the main page).
In January 2023, I spent 7.39 hours on Reddit—that’s 54% less time than last year— yay me! In Figure 2, you can find the top 8 subreddits I have visited the most during this time. Why 8 and not 10? That’s because by then, I had only visited eight subreddits more than five times.
Comparing both charts shows that the frequented subreddits have changed. For some reason, “Next Fucking Level” (a subreddit that shows people doing incredible and cool things) was last month’s second most-seen section of Reddit, while Formula 1 is nowhere to be seen. This isn’t because I don’t like Formula 1 anymore, but because this year’s winter break has been slow and not newsworthy. Another detail I noticed is that Pokémon Masters, a mobile game, is also not there because I finally stopped playing it after almost three years (I miss it, though). However, another Pokémon-related subreddit, “PKMNTCGDeals,” or Pokémon Trading Card Game Deals, has taken its place, for I started playing and collecting Pokémon cards last year and am always on the lookout for good prices.
Knowing that the time on Reddit has decreased, I wanted to know what day of the week was affected the most. Was it a weekday or during the weekend? Figure 3 reveals it.
Thursdays and Sundays are the two days that benefited the most. You might wonder why these two days and what’s the connection (if there is any). The answer is that these are the two days I play Pokémon in my local league—which also explains why PKMNTCGDeals is now one of my newest favorite subreddits.
I spent 50% less time on Reddit in January 2023 than in January 2022 due to my new year’s resolution to reduce my online time. This change was also influenced by hobbies I started or abandoned last year. For example, I stopped playing the mobile game Pokémon Masters, which led to a decrease in visits to its subreddit. Conversely, my newfound interest in the Pokémon Trading Card Game led to frequent the PKMNTCGDeals more often.
In terms of days, Thursdays and Sundays saw the largest change, with significantly less time spent on Reddit. Now, I’m using this gained time to pursue other activities such as watching Formula 1 (once the season starts), playing Pokémon, and writing articles like this.
This won’t be the only update I’ll do regarding my goal, as I plan to repeat this analysis at the end of each quarter to ensure I’m achieving my goal. Until then, happy (moderately) browsing!