Reddit is a website that evokes an array of feelings from people. Some consider it a community of news and information. Others view it as a den of hive-minded thoughts where some heinous behavior can occur.
Depending on where you are, both can be 100% correct.
Yet, one of the more wholesome and enjoyable subreddits, or community dedicated to a topic, is its cannabis-centric subreddit /r/trees. The subreddit, or sub, is dubbed the “home of the ents” after the tree people race from Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
/r/trees is where many have come to over the years to learn about cannabis, legalization, and other topics related to the plant. The ents of /r/trees are also quite fond of their pineapples, a symbol used across the subreddit’s theme, and a tattoo of this writer who later found out it is also a symbol for the swinging community. Win-win.
But no subreddit is safe from trolls, bots, and otherwise rule-breakers looking to harsh the room. To keep that in check, moderators act as the gatekeeper of Reddit’s subs.
To some, mods are oppressive, censorship-loving fiends with a power complex. Others see them as the volunteer content-checkers that they are. To better understand /r/trees and their personal experiences, three current mods of the subreddit provided their insights to High Times.
Active subreddit users often become mods, if interested. /u/LiveBeef has been a moderator for /r/trees since August 2017. They got the position after observing, better known as lurking in Reddit, then eventually contributing with posts and comments of their own. /u/LinuxCharms has been a mod for /r/trees for about a month and a half. She was more active on one of /r/trees’ sister subs but understood the theme of the main sub as well.
/u/PM_ME_YOUR_VALUE is another new mod who had experience overseeing smaller traffic subreddits, just like /u/LinuxCharms and /u/LiveBeef. When /r/trees opened applications for new mods, each applied and were able to join the team in time.
Working as a mod does not require hard and fast hours to monitor the subreddit. /u/PM_ME_YOUR_VALUE works 12 hour shifts at their full-time job. In their downtime, they keep an eye on the subreddit. “Most weeks, Sunday or Saturday through Thursday, I’m online, in some form or fashion, from about 8:00 AM till usually 10:00 PM to maybe midnight some nights.”
/u/LinuxCharms instead checks the site a couple times a day due to her disabilities stemming from fibromyalgia and other issues. “When I get bored I periodically check the MoD QC, see what’s going on and make sure no one is killing each other or that sort of thing.”
Most of the user submitted content is acceptable on /r/trees. They often include news, user’s smoking setups, smoke spots, and other content that people tend to enjoy taking in while high. Some content, like memes, were once accepted more readily but became too much of the sub’s content over time. This is common on many popular subreddits.
In /r/trees’ case, it led to allowing memes on Saturdays while turfing the rest to a spinoff subreddit, /r/see, for a steady flow of memes. Despite an FAQ on the side of the page, most overlook rules on memes. “But most new users don’t know that and run right through the messages telling them, so we end up removing a good amount of those during the week,” noted /u/LiveBeef.
Other types of posts get taken down as well, and can lead to accounts being banned. “The four big ones are: No hookup requests (or offers), No personal attacks, No advertising, and No minors,” /u/LiveBeef explained. They delved into two of the subjects some more.
“We don’t want to open those floodgates by being passive on how we handle that, so we’ve decided to put a blanket ban on advertising and promotion. On the last point, we as a mod team have taken a look at the scientific research into how weed affects the minds of younger people, and how it stunts their brain development. We’ve decided that, primarily because of that, we don’t want to normalize or encourage underage smoking, so we’ve set the cutoff for membership at 18 and ban users who’ve said they’re younger.”
/u/LinuxCharms also noted how /r/trees became more age restrictive as Reddit threatened to quarantine the subreddit if it did not police the community. To do so, mods sometimes spend large amounts of time going through a user’s post history to determine if they are of age. She explains the sub even had a vigilante finding people and harassing them about their age, not at the request of anyone at /r/trees.
Personal attacks is an aspect /u/PM_ME_YOUR_VALUE understands first-hand. They explained how their current username is a replacement for a previous one which had been doxxed. “My first one I got doxxed pretty hard and had a lot of threats and stuff that caused me to drop off of Reddit for about a year.”
So, why do it? Why work for free managing a forum when Reddit can often bring out the worst in people from doxxers to trolls?
Overall, the mods explained that the /r/trees community is one that is not filled with what Reddit often gets associated with. /u/LiveBeef joked that they enjoy the work the same way people enjoy pulling weeds. “…the work itself is repetitive and a bit time-consuming. But, when the work is done, the result is a cleaner, more appealing, space. That’s a satisfying feeling, especially when the result is cleaning up a community like /r/trees and making it a more enjoyable place to hang out for the 1.3 million people who subscribe there.”
Other mod-related highlights for /u/LiveBeef include taking part in NPR’s Reddit-centric podcast Endless Thread. “I shared a post with them about someone who found an old picture of his uncle getting busted for growing weed in his backyard in the ‘70s. It’s a pretty great picture, with a cop posing with the uncle, holding him by the arm with the weed plant in the other hand, and the uncle just has this great shit-eating grin on his face.”
The photo led to the original poster and the uncle meeting for the first time. “It was great to be able to share that story with a wider, off-reddit crowd, and play some part in bringing the OP together with the uncle he’d never met.”
Newcomers to the plant and the /r/trees community at large are highlights for /u/PM_ME_YOUR_VALUE. “I like seeing people who haven’t had any interaction with cannabis. Or someone who may consume and then their first experience is this community of people who are happy. They’re a pleasure to be around. They’re supporting each other.”
/r/trees continues to grow and evolve as Reddit itself balloons into one of the most popular destinations online. The mods encourage users to contribute to the chilled, friendly atmosphere /r/trees has cultivated over time. If a person wants to be a mod, the mods suggest being on the lookout for the next application posting. Or, reach out to them. They are rather quick to respond.
However, the growth and evolution of /r/trees does come with a balancing act. One that Reddit and its popular long-time subreddits have come to struggle with. This is amplified in cannabis where its legal status continues to shift.
Aesthetically, /u/LiveBeef had to re-do the site when Reddit changed its appearance a year or so ago. However, laborious tasks extend to the changing culture of the sub and cannabis as well. “When I first joined about five years ago, Reddit was about the 100th most popular website in the world. Today’s it’s around the 15th, and 5th in the US. That’s huge.”
With the subreddit turning 10 years old in October, a balancing act is a prime concern for /r/trees and its mods. “We have to balance the interests of the users who don’t want /r/trees to lose its roots, by making big changes to the subreddit, with staying responsive to the younger generation of stoners, at least, the 18-21 year olds or so, who have different expectations for what /r/trees should look like.” /u/LiveBeef said.
They said that the balancing act is continually shifting “but at the end of the day we’re just a big group of people who love weed and just want a place to post and talk about it.”