Internet Santa

Feature by Alex Cole | 11 Nov 2011
  • Internet Santa

Looking at the average YouTube comment thread, where even mundane comedy clips can devolve into racist, homophobic, nationalistic shrieking matches, it'd be easy to just write most internetters off as whiny, ignorant trolls with nothing to contribute – hell, I do it all the time.

But when it comes to Internet altruism, every now and then, there's a bright spot. Take Reddit, for example, a site already so self-absorbed that a meme joke can appear, spread, mutate, be refuted and get passé all in the space of a day. The active user base of this so-called 'front page of the internet' has a strong streak of random acts of kindness, and this year is aiming to do the largest Secret Santa gift exchange in the world. 

Those signing up are assigned a semi-random giftee, who could be anywhere in the world, and through some subtle research on their preferences, are given the mission to make their holiday. Some gifts don't make the journey intact, some evil folk just back out entirely, but the site is chock-full of people whose days are made by random strangers a hemisphere away. Candy and tea made for popular selections in the past, and joke gifts disguised as something else (I'm looking at you, guy who gave DVDs in Twilight packaging) is encouraged.

Reddit has a long history of giving for the hell of it, especially in response to people sharing their hard luck stories. A few kind-hearted souls with some pocket change to burn can easily become personal heroes to strangers, and this Secret Santa campaign is an effort to expand that to a massive scale.

Whether or not it earns the Guinness World Record for secret Santa is almost besides the point, though already there are over 30,000 participants in 104 countries. Even the gift giving is almost a side show to the posted reactions of people who end up with crap gifts from friends and family, but the perfect thing from a total stranger.