Zia Hassan

The Downside To The Niche Web

When I really discovered Reddit a few years ago, I quickly learned how it provides value. This was a service that segmented by interest, and I could find communities around almost anything that fascinated me. Here, in this corner of the internet, were crazy people like myself, obsessed over plant based diets, fitness regimens, meditation, and to-do list managers. We could all sit together in a hot tub of our fandom, discussing every single last niche of our chosen universe.

But there’s a dark side to being able to access a community of people interested in a micro-market, which is that we tend to get a bit obsessive. If you’ve ever been on the mechanical keyboards subreddit, you know that those folks encourage each other to spend a ton of money on mechanical keyboards. The same goes for any expensive hobby – the cheap stuff won’t do, because we’re fanatics here. If you’re serious about your photography for instance, you’re going to need the highest quality equipment.

And even that gets dicey. If you’ve ever seen an internet community argue over which guitar in a shoot-out sounds “warmer” then you know what I’m talking about. It goes on forever, and isn’t actually helpful to those looking to buy a guitar; rather, it serves as an almost masturbatory reflex for the super fans. We share our thoughts and seem like the experts we are, and in return, the person who wanted to know which guitar sounds sweeter was convince not to listen to their own voice, which is the first voice they heard when they heard the instruments.

It’s amazing to deep dive but there’s a problem with becoming obsessive over a topic. Especially with greedy companies looking to capitalize on your fascination with, say, journaling.

I’m not sure how far this problem will go as the years move on and technology’s capabilities grow. And I’m not sure I want to know.