Longhorns find virtual home on UT subreddit

Alex Pelham

It’s typical for a wide-eyed, bewildered freshman to come to Austin with a million questions about classes, campus grounds and best places to eat around the city. With the unofficial University of Texas subreddit, better known as “r/UTAustin,”  students can anonymously ask or answer any query. 

The page — a division of the online community reddit.com — currently has over 8,000 subscribers who contribute information to the subreddit. The community is mainly comprised of undergraduates, graduates and alumni. Chemistry junior Aubrey Bleier, who moderates the page along with a few other users, said users do not necessarily have to be students at the University. She said the page she curates exists as an open forum in which students can share information about campus life.

“The purpose of any subreddit is to find like-minded individuals,” Bleier said. “[The UT-Austin subreddit] provides the community another social media outlet
for Longhorns.”

A user named Modestraen, a former UT electrical engineering student, founded the subreddit six years ago. Modestraen, who wishes to only be identified by his username for purposes of anonymity, said he originally created the page for people at UT to chat and post interesting links and questions. Modestraen said the subreddit started off as a small page where nobody posted any content, but “slowly more and more people came to it.”

“Reddit as a whole is a time-waster, so [the subreddit users] waste time in something they have in common — the University,” Modestraen said.

Although people mostly use the page to seek and spread information, Bleier said some users manage to find ways to connect with other students. 

“Recently someone was asking for people to play tennis with, and a few of those people got together in person and ended up playing,” Bleier said. “We also had a subreddit meetup where we went to the Union and went bowling.”

Since its founding, the page has expanded to include a guide for incoming freshman, as well as links to essential websites such as Canvas, UT Direct and the Counseling and Mental Health Center. There are also links to other Austin-based subreddits, such as “r/LonghornNation,” which covers all things related to Texas athletics.

Although anyone can view the subreddit, only those with Reddit accounts can post questions. Posts usually include questions centered around financial aid or the admissions process, a topic so popular, it inspired a question-and-answer thread headed by a former undergraduate admissions counselor. 

The UT-Austin subreddit community abides by a list of certain guidelines listed on the main page. These exist to make sure the page remains a civil and safe place for discussions. Examples of these rules include banning posts aimed at benefiting commercial interests and sublease offers. Bleier said members of the community crafted the list of rules, and they are important to combat bad-quality posts and spammers. Modestraen said the new moderators have used these regulations to better organize the subreddit.

“The moderators have taken a more structured approach,” Modestraen said. “They have more rules than I did, and I think that and the growth of Reddit as a community have led the subreddit to be a lot more active now.”

The page differs from the variety of UT Facebook pages because it offers users anonymity. Additionally, the various questions the subreddit receives are housed in one place, eliminating the need to transition to different pages in order to post questions or find answers.

“Reddit is the most popular site of its kind,” Bleier said. “[UT-Austin] gives people the ability to start a conversation on whatever you want, provided it’s related to the University.”