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15th of November 2018

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Are you the assh*le? This community will give you an honest answer.

Oh, this guy is definitely the asshole.Oh, this guy is definitely the asshole.Image: Shutterstock / Dean Drobot2018%2f07%2f27%2fa0%2fscreenshot20180711at4.45.35pm.85f8dBy Amanda Luz Henning Santiago2018-11-08 18:55:45 UTC

In a flourishing Reddit community each post begins by asking one simple question: Am I the asshole?

Am I the Asshole is resolute about giving every person who makes a post a succinct answer as to whether or not they have behaved like an asshole in a recent situation. But don't let the subreddit's goofy name fool you, at its core it's a place for people to reckon with social norms and mores, and get vital third party opinions.

In fact, the subreddit was born out of its creator's desire for a third party's take on an office quarrel.

"Some years ago, I had a petty personal dispute about a continuing battle over air conditioning in my office, and I wanted some objective voice to comment on it. Every sub I tried would reject my question because it wasn't what they wanted to focus on," Redditor flignir wrote in a private message. "So I made my own sub, asked the question, and actually got a response despite being the only subscriber!"

Since then, the subreddit has grown like wildfire. Currently, it receives 800-900 new posts per week, according to moderator trikstersire. That's about 120 people wondering if they're an asshole per day.

How is someone's asshole status determined?

In order to determine how much of an asshole you were in a recent conflict or argument, all you need to do is write a post explaining everything that transpired from the perspectives of all parties involved. Next, members of the subreddit will deliberate and discuss what you shared.

A final judgement will be made by the community 24 hours after the post was shared.

Depending on the general consensus of commenters on any given post, flair reading "asshole," "not the asshole," "everybody sucks," or "no assholes here" is used to denote the group's final ruling.  

While many posts written by those deemed to be assholes can be deeply amusing — like the person annoyed with their wife for referring to a coat as pink instead of fuchsia — there are many that border on disturbing and concerning.

A perfect example is this post, asking if it's OK to tell a girl to lose weight. Spoiler: it never is.

Thankfully, Redditors are quick to point out inappropriate actions and explain what makes them so problematci. In many cases the "assholes" are able to recognize their missteps.

"The best posts are the ones where someone is judged by the community to be 'the asshole' and accepts it while assuring everyone that they will apologize and remedy their situation," moderator TheOutrageousClaire said via private message. "I think that all of us are the asshole at one point or another in our lives and that if we can acknowledge it we can work on becoming better people."

Then there are those who are given the coveted "not an asshole" flair. Typically, these people are trying to figure out whether or not they made the right decision during a difficult moment or argument in which they were made to feel bad. 

Among the non-assholes is a person who asked the subreddit if they were wrong to ask their friends to chip in for Dungeons and Dragons books. Another wondered if it was wrong to have sex with his fiancé after a neighbor complained about the noise. In both cases they were considered to be in the right. 

The posts that receive more ambiguous flairs, such as "everybody sucks", or "no assholes here," signify that everyone involved was in the wrong, or no one was, respectively.  Included in the "everybody sucks" posts is a woman complaining about her boyfriend being annoyed that she spent the $140 he gave her on things she didn't need at the mall. And in the "no assholes here" set, you can find a student feeling somewhat remorseful for revealing a high SAT score to their friend. 

Self improvement is a big draw for Am I the Asshole's members 

Surprisingly, most people who come to the subreddit are extremely "helpful and respectful," according to trikstersire. 

'I hope to become a better person by posting and interacting with the sub. Or, at least less of an asshole.'

"Although the word 'asshole' is thrown around a lot, people genuinely want to know whether they were in the right or in the wrong, and commenters here provide a good third party opinion," trikstersire said.

They continued to explain that many discussions in the subreddit's threads give people a chance to "understand whether they should be learning from their mistakes and apologizing, or standing by their actions."

Alex Rademacher, a frequenter of the subreddit said that self improvement is a big motivator for posting in the subreddit.

"I hope to become a better person by posting and interacting with the sub," he wrote in an email. "Or, at least less of an asshole."  

What's the appeal of having strangers weigh in on your disputes?

After days of reading through posts on Am I the Asshole, I realized that I actually had a conflict of my own, worthy of a post. Recently, I've found myself questioning something that's been difficult for me to navigate: Do I attempt to reconnect with my estranged father, or do I just move on? 

And so, I made a post on Am I the Asshole. For journalism, but also very genuinely for myself.

Turns out, I am not the asshole in this situation. I didn't really think that I was when I initially wrote my post but I definitely had some doubts, like most people congregating in the subreddit. 

The four comments that my post received were truthfully very kind. Nearly everyone told me to trust my gut and do what makes me feel most comfortable, which I realized was all I really wanted. I didn't find that the responses helped me make a decision, but they did affirm my own feelings, which for me made the entire experience worthwhile. 

The strangers who responded to my inquiry knew practically nothing about me and weren't afraid to potentially hurt my feelings. Knowing this helped me take their opinions more seriously than my actual friends who had assessed my situation.

A lot of people seek out strangers to discuss their troubles. In a 2013 study, sociologist Mario Luis Small found that many actually prefer to confide in people that they don't know well, opposed to those closest to them. 

While I don't think I'll be soliciting anymore advice from Reddit in the near future, I do feel that I now understand the benefits and allure of Am I the Asshole's third party input and the value of trusting strangers to give you their unfiltered opinion on your life. 

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