Reddit Island Shows Us The Struggles Of Making Fantasy Into Reality (2024)

For many, there’s something undeniably romantic about running away from society and starting over fresh somewhere quiet and desolate. There's a certain thrill to being able to do what you want in peace and without judgment — to start fresh in a place where nobody knows your name, and where your rule is law. That doesn’t necessarily mean buying your own private island and creating a new society from scratch, but it does if you're talking to the people of Reddit.

For many on the site, moving to an island where they can meme in harmony away from the threat of TikTokers and Keanu Reeves haters is something of an ultimate goal, and recently, that goal came closer than ever before to becoming a reality with the launch of the subreddit /r/Reddit_island.

On April 30th, 2021, Redditor u/MrNoName_ishere posted a Spider-Man's Presentation meme to /r/memes reading, “If Redditors wanted to, they would join together and buy an island for a meme,” doubling-down and betting the viewers they wouldn’t do it in the caption.

Most of the time, a meme like this would "die in new," but MrNoName’s managed to gain over 33,000 upvotes and a number of Reddit Awards. MrNoName continued to spread the idea of a Reddit island through a number of additional posts, including one to /r/AskReddit asking “Why couldn’t we buy an island?” and a photoshop of a breaking news report about Redditors buying an island to /r/memes that gained another 17,000 upvotes.

Soon enough, /r/memes and other subreddits were flooded with memes about Reddit Island or “Memeland,” many coming up with potential laws for the society, flags and mostly making self-aware jokes about the state of the stereotypical Redditor. By some miracle, the idea was picking up steam, reflected most in a subreddit created on May 1st by u/Fox-with_socks called /r/Reddit_Island, which has collected over 27,000 subscribers in only two weeks.

We reached out to Fox-with_socks to learn more about the motivation behind /r/Reddit_island and the whole Reddit Island movement. He told us:

“I saw [the] meme by u/MrNoName_ishere on r/memes and I thought it was a cool idea that we should pursue, so I made the sub r/Reddit_Island. I definitely wasn’t the only one who liked the idea […] we are already over 25,000 members!”

This isn’t the first time the idea of a "Reddit Island" has floated around the site. One of the most well-known and earliest attempts was undertaken by Redditor u/Matude back in 2010, abandoned officially in 2016. Matude’s Reddit Island venture managed to attract over 10,000 members to the /r/Redditisland subreddit at its height, where users would discuss various islands they could buy and share ideas about the society, much like the modern /r/Reddit_island except without the memes. We asked Fox why Redditors seem so keen over users of other social media platforms to start an island, and he said:

“Reddit is a unique social media platform. Unlike other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, etc. Redditors mostly choose to stay anonymous. Maybe in turn people are less self-absorbed with themselves on Reddit? I would say that this lack of self-absorption creates more of a sense of community, which lends itself well to this type of project.”

The major presence of memes this time around isn’t to say one attempt is more serious than the other though. Both Matude’s 2010 Reddit Island venture and 2021’s Memeland venture are legitimate at their core. What’s more, the 2021 attempt has perhaps the highest probability of happening so far based on pure numbers and a few memorable past successes of Redditors. In the last year alone, we’ve seen Redditors band together for the highly successful GameStop Short Squeeze, donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to zoo animals and create the most wholesome event of the year with the Josh Fight, gathering hundreds and raising over $30,000 for charity. Fox told us:

“While I didn’t have those events in mind when I decided to create the sub, they give me hope that we as Redditors have the power to achieve some pretty substantial goals.”

The moderators have taken a number of steps to solidify Reddit Island as the real deal, including developing a website run largely by u/triggeredLife_, who told us over Reddit DMs that he wants to implement a feature where Redditors with over 1,000 karma can register for a personal “Reddit Island ID.” They also want to use the site to link people to the island’s future GoFundMe page and share the ultimate goals and ideals for the island. We asked Fox what his ideal island might look like:

“I wouldn’t say I have an ideal vision, but I guess I would be interested in a grassy island with a lot of open space that we could get for a good price. A few people mentioned the idea of a meme museum on the island. If we could pull that off somehow, that would be super cool. I view the island as being a Redditor tourist attraction and vacation destination, but others are interested in actually inhabiting the island, which is a cool thought.”

If you ask Matude, one of the main problems with his 2010 Reddit Island fantasy was the lack of crowdfunding ability. This was before sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter were a thing. There was no real way to undertake such a large project that would require so much money safely over the web, not to mention the legality of the whole thing was pretty sketchy. We reached out to Matude to ask him what he thinks of the new Reddit Island efforts, and he let us in on another big problem with Reddit Island:

“Even today, if 10,000 people decide to do something there's a chance they'll pull it off. I am a bit surprised about the 26k subscribers in just a few days, that's awesome, and it'll probably grow a lot bigger because memes have power like we've seen from GME and Doge. Our biggest issue was agreeing on a clear vision most people would be willing to bet money on. I'm not sure I've seen that vision emerge yet from the new subreddit.”

This lack of a clear vision is evident when you dig a little past the surface of /r/Reddit_island. A GoFundMe page was started by an unknown member of the subreddit sometime around May 1st, and managed to raise about $250 according to u/Redditlogicking, a moderator for the sub, before being shut down and refunds given due to the creator of the campaign being under 18. This was described in a post to the subreddit but has led some to believe the whole thing is a scam.

Equally troubling, it raises a particularly interesting issue with doing something like this online: age. Many supporters seem to be high school age, and with the anonymity of the internet, there’s no real way to get a verified, trustworthy adult in charge. Young people aren’t the most fluent cash-wise, which makes it unsurprising that they quickly began trying to contact Elon Musk (a known Redditor) to fund the project. In fact, u/RedditLogicKing even went as far as contacting Musk’s official Reddit account, sending to the self-proclaimed Doge-father:

“Hi Elon Musk! I am part of a group on Reddit that is trying to buy an island! A ‘Reddit island’ so to say. We were wondering if you would be interested in supporting us, or possibly sponsoring the project? I encourage you to check out r/Reddit_Island, where you can learn more about what we’re doing. Our idea has a lot of support on Reddit, and people are really excited about it! Would you be interested in getting involved? Let me know and we can discuss how to move forward. Thank you so much for your help!”

Musk accepted the message request according to a screenshot, meaning he likely saw and read it, a fact that RedditLogicKing posted to the subreddit with thousands of upvotes, raising hopes even higher. Unfortunately, Musk has not responded further, and crowdfunding efforts have not relaunched, with many still banking on Musk to swoop in and save the day. To add another layer of confusion to the mix, on May 5th, the Reddit Island moderators attempted to change course from buying an island to buying a town. Fox told us about the decision:

“u/SoBadAtThis2017 came up with the idea to buy a town. He thought it would be much more practical. More people would be able to live there and visit, and you can buy more land at a cheaper price.”

More practical, perhaps, but changing course even at the beginning stages doesn’t inspire a lot of hope for the “clear vision” needed for this venture. Fox put up a poll for users to vote on the decision, where they also argued the pros and cons of town vs. island. In the end, with over 2,000 votes total, the majority of people wanted to stick with an island. Some wanted to build a town on the island, an idea that didn’t help anyone. The whole island-town debate only muddied the waters and made things slightly more confusing for the overall effort. It gave more fuel to the meme fires, with all the memes changing to be about the Reddit Town debate afterward, but that only brings up the next problem, which also happens to be the movement’s biggest attractor: the memes. Matude tells us:

“People are all on board when it's just in the digital world or in a planning phase but when it's time to put down actual money and to move someplace physically, that's a different level of commitment. The money part is way easier today, especially with the cryptocurrency boom going on. But having people do something physical in real life, not just memes and online, that will still be a challenge.”

As it currently stands, Reddit Island is more of a meme than a possibility, and it's a good meme at that. The movement may have the numbers and the passion behind it, but so far nothing tangible has come of that beyond a popping subreddit and an outpouring of memes so large that it’s drowned out any sense of organization. On top of all that, the biggest problem with the Reddit Island fantasy is that nobody seems to know what the next step is. Nothing like this has ever been done before.

Starting an island for Redditors is easier said than done, and right now, the whole thing is a much more fun idea than it is a practice. This isn’t sitting at your computer and buying stocks or showing up to an event on a specific date to have a pool noodle fight. This is much, much bigger. It’s building a physical community from scratch, and that can’t be done so simply over the web.

Right now, the /r/Reddit_island subreddit is more than content making memes about banning TikTokers from visiting the island and making Keanu Reeves president rather than actually putting any work in, and who can really blame them? That’s where the fun lies, and that’s where the general attitude will lie until the next big step forward is taken. Elon Musk, the ball is in your court, apparently.

Meme Insider is a Know Your Meme publication and the world's leading internet culture magazine. Find out how to get your first print copy for free, and check out the Meme Insider website for more info.

Reddit Island Shows Us The Struggles Of Making Fantasy Into Reality (2024)
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