Give a Little Reddit Gift (Part 2 of 3)

Posted: July 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

By Tricia Lunt and Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

(If you missed Part 1, check it out here!)

While Paul and I wait for our gifts to arrive, and wait for word that our recipients received their gifts, we decided to discuss further the many interesting facets of the Reddit Gifts idea and process:


Tricia: Why do you suppose people are interested in giving presents, especially to people they’ve never met?

Paul: In the case of Reddit Gifts, I suspect there are a few elements involved. One is that it makes the gifters happy to make other people happy. Another element is that this process turns gift giving into a game. Gifters have to investigate clues from the recipient’s profile and through “non-creepy stalking” figure out who the person is and what gift would be ideal. That process is fun, like solving a mystery.

Paul: What is the interest in receiving gifts from a stranger?

Tricia: I suspect one of the foremost desires in adult life is to be understood by others. A sense of recognition and acceptance, an “Oh, you get me,” drives relationships. By outlining what we like and what we are like in a few sentences, we are holding a metaphorical mirror in front of ourselves and asking this stranger to describe what he or she sees. The gift is a manifestation of that understanding. Any “good” gift is profoundly personal, and signals that we have been understood, in this case through our own tastes as interpreted by someone who doesn’t know us very well. It’s as if we’re all yelling out into the world, “This is who I am,” and hoping for an echo in return.

Tricia: Gift giving is an incredibly important way to build community and celebrate accomplishments, but it is a slippery thing. What if you give too little? Too much? The wrong thing? How does the expectation that what you give says something significant about you drive your gift-giving?

Paul: How the gift reflects back on me is an important part of giving. As you pointed out, the parameters of a relationship define gifts, so our gift is also a way of reaffirming where we stand, thus giving the gift a larger meaning beyond the material possession. In the case of Reddit gifts, it is a bit different. I don’t know the person I’m gifting to, and likely never will. Aside from a profile, this person is a complete stranger to me. Therefore, I want my gift to reflect on me as someone who could look in that “mirror” and accurately decode this stranger’s personality. Furthermore, I want my gift to reflect on me as someone who is thoughtful and creative enough to use that information to produce a good gift. In the end, if my recipient is happy with his gifts, then I’m pleased to have made him happy, but additionally, I’m pleased that I “won” by proving I could analyze, reflect, and be creative.

Paul: Speaking of the “mirror” – all of the profiles, ours included, contain an eclectic set of info. Mine talks about running, sports, movies, books, writing. Any small subset of my info, separated from the rest, could paint me as a very different person from another subset. All people are dynamic in that we have many different sides and interests, but as you anticipate the arrival of your gift, what do you think would prove that your gifter accurately “got” you?

Tricia: I would hope to see some essential aspects of myself in the gift I receive. Thus, I am forced to consider what the essential aspects of me are. I looked back at my profile, and I noticed that I spoke about my relationships with my friends and family before closing with the line, “I teach English/Writing/Literature at a college in Chicago.” I now realize this is quite an accurate depiction of my life, but not very helpful. My likes list was better, but still! It is awfully challenging to buy a good gift, even when it is someone well-known! Because the giver doesn’t know me at all, I have to assume they’d trust what I told them and zero on some specific detail I’d provided, probably one that “lends itself” to gift-buying.

Tricia: Let’s take the gifts out of it for a second and talk about the desire to give. What makes you want to buy something for someone else? What compels you to seek a gift?

Paul: Gifts are to make someone happy, to strengthen my relationship with the recipient, and also to get something in return. That sounds selfish, but it isn’t. When giving, I think all givers have some reciprocation in mind, even if its immaterial. For example, maybe the reciprocation is for the other person to see you as nice or caring. Maybe the reciprocation is for them to remember you in return on birthdays and holidays. Maybe it’s just to make yourself feel good to know you did something nice. It’s never truly one-sided. With the Reddit Gift process, it obviously isn’t one-sided. Everyone is giving with the knowledge that they will receive something in return. So part of what compels the giving here is the knowledge that reciprocation is coming. If we didn’t know that was the case, it would make this more like a charity donation.


In Part 3, we will reveal the results of our experience with Arbitrary Day 2013. What did we receive? Did our giftees like what we sent?


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