"The Button" On Reddit Is Turning The Internet Into A Color-coded Caste System And Driving Users Mad

The Internet’s "front page" is trove of absurdity and boundless entertainment, but the site may have finally outdone itself. At the time I'm writing this, social experiment The Button on Reddit will have been clicked more than 726,000 times by unique users who created accounts before April 1, 2015. And yes, there was no doubt an April Fools’ bent to this bizarre Internet obsession, but no longer. It has become, as the Washington Post points out, “the Internet’s foremost forum on death and mortality.” This is for real, people.

So what the hell is it? I failed to understand fully until I spent a significant period of time on Reddit, staring, watching the Button be pressed repeatedly and after only a few seconds, while more than 5,000 other users looked on in wonder. The time at which you press the Button, sometime between :59 and :01 seconds before it resets, dictates a colored circle that will appear next to your username. The longest it's ever gone without be pushed was evidently 27 seconds. If you joined Reddit after April 1, 2015, you’re doomed to a white dot forever. If you, like me, refuse to press the Button on principle, the dot beside your name will stay grey. The other color options have evolved into some sort of caste system.

Per the Guardian:

There’s one further twist: once you do push the button, you’re forever marked with the time you pushed it at. If you’re an impatient presser who reset the timer at just 59 seconds, everyone will know; and if you’re one of the hallowed few who clicked when there was less than 30 seconds on the clock, everyone will know.And not just thanks to an unobtrusive number. The user account is colour-coded into six bands: purple for those who press before the count hits 52, blue for those who press before 42, and so on, through green, yellow, orange and red.

The psychology behind the button is fascinating, and when the Post spoke to psychologist Rider University John Suler, he pointed out that people create meaning in otherwise innocuous activities to give significant to their very existence. "Watching the clock and clicking the button, on an unconscious level, becomes a way to keep something alive, to keep it ticking, to keep the heart beating," he says. Grim? Maybe. Welcome to the Internet.

The best advice I can impart on you is to throw yourself down the rabbit hole and explore your badge destiny in the page’s many forums on color-specific cults. “We can’t tell you what to do from here on out,” reads the page ominously. “The choice is yours.” So what’ll it be? To press or not to press?

Images: Francisco Osorio/Flickr; Reddit (3)