This article appeared on the TouchVision website June 5th, 2015. I am reuploading it today because I am about to publish an article on Forbes where I reference this material.
The social experiment known as the Button has ended, and people still don’t know what it was really about. And maybe that is the point.
On April Fool’s Day, Reddit announced a new site feature, a button with a 60-second timer that you could only press once. Pressing the Button reset the timer, keeping everyone guessing when and if it would ever run down to zero. Pressers received a color badge to represent what time they pressed. It was all very mysterious and vague, and the Reddit community proceeded to treat it like a role-playing game, concocting elaborate stories, religions and color-based factions about what the Button was, figuratively, and what would happen when the timer ran out. Art, data visualizations and applications, thoughtful discussions and flame wars flourished.
This article appeared on the TouchVision website May 8th, 2015. I am reuploading it today because I am about to publish an article on Forbes where I reference this material. This particular post was also picked up by PBS Digital, and mentioned in their video about the subject.
What can a meaningless Button on the Internet tell us about society? A lot, actually.
Since April 1, denizens of the online community Reddit have been embroiled in a heated debate over a game involving a simple Button with a timer next to it. The one rule in this game? You can push the Button only once, and only if you created your account before April 1.
To push, when to push or not to ever push the Button is the question, and it turns out, people have very strong opinions on the matter. Over the past month, the mysterious Button has inspired distinctive factions based on colors, philosophies and religions, as well as data tools, art, poetry, comics, merchandise and even graduate school theses. One user named Psychotic Whispers said in an interview the Button is God. It’s become a long-running, role-playing exercise to many. To others, it’s a discussion on the meaning of life. Whatever it is, more than 800,000 people have pushed the Button to date.
Originally launched on April Fool’s Day as a social experiment via a brief blog post, Reddit proper hasn’t commented on its invention since. Reddit Director of Outreach Ashley Dawkins explained in an email they are not commenting on purpose so as to not interfere with the experiment.