In the past two weeks, over half a million people have pushed a button on Reddit that does one thing: Reset a timer. The timer counts down from 60.
“But what happens when it reaches zero?!” you ask. And in that question, you’ve found the hook.
This is “The Button,” an April Fools’ Day gag from Reddit that’s still going strong nearly two weeks after the annual day of stupidity. Business Insider editor Matt Weinberger aptly described how it works on this year’s Fools’ Day: “A button is paired with a countdown timer for 60 seconds. Anybody on Reddit who has an account made before Wednesday [April 1] can push the button once and once only. If the button gets pushed even once, the countdown timer goes back to 60 seconds. For everybody. Globally.”
Going through the Reddit page dedicated to “The Button” is a bit like stumbling on the locker in “Men in Black 2” that Will Smith goes to in Grand Central Station: It’s an isolated society that idolizes inanity, with a tinge of religious fervor.
Here’s just one example of that madness, care of Reddit user “gnorwgnidaererauoy”:
What you see above is an illustrated map corresponding to the population of Reddit.More specifically, it’s Reddit as it pertains to “The Button.” Let’s back up and explain a bit.
If you click the button while the countdown timer is between 60 and 52 seconds, you get a purple coloured circle next to your username, known as “flair.” It looks like this:
If you exercise patience and click between 51 and 42 seconds, you get a blue dot. The longer you wait, the rarer your colour becomes. Very, very few people have been able to get a piece of “flair” that’s tied to pressing the button at lower time counts. Most are still grey, which means you still haven’t pressed the button.
Remember: you can only press the button once. Moreover, any flair you’re assigned stays with your account permanently. This person got (rare) yellow flair for pushing the button at the 30-second mark:
Millions of Reddit accounts were created before April 1, 2015, and that means potentially millions of people clicking the button every day, resetting the timer over and over. If you want a piece of flair tied to a lower countdown number, you have to watch the timer and click appropriately.
- Yes, someone could click it right before you do, resulting in you resetting it at a high number and getting the totally whack purple flair. The grimace flair.
- Yes, you could end up watching the timer for hours and not get anything from it.
- Yes, all of this seems a lot like straight up madness.
Being that Reddit is Reddit, factions quickly arose based around flair colours and the potential actions of Redditors. Would you click, or would you abstain?
From those factions, an oddly religious-sounding rhetoric began to emerge. That rhetoric is collected in this incredible thread, titled, “A Brief History of The Button”. It details a user named “The Button” who unwittingly became the prophet of these pseudo-religious factions; he’s also known as the “pressiah” by the Redditor who’s thought to have started the countdown clock/button concept.
So, what will happen should the timer run out? No one really knows, and Reddit isn’t saying anything beyond what’s on its announcement post. Some Reddit users dug into the page’s code and found at least one potential outcome:
And if that is indeed the conclusion, it seems Reddit’s teaching us all a valuable lesson: it’s about the journey, not the destination. Also, maybe don’t put too much stock in April Fools’ gags.
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