Karma is Reddit’s voting system. The posts with the most karma are the ones you see on the front page. Reddit tracks how much karma each of its users has earned, too. We’ll explain how Reddit karma works and how you get it.
What Is Reddit Karma?
Next to every Reddit post or comment are upvote and downvote buttons. By clicking one of these, you are giving either positive or negative karma to the post. Positive karma increases the number of points a post has, while negative karma decreases that number.
Reddit uses karma as a way of showing the best possible content to users. Upvoted comments and posts with a ton of points end up at the top of the page, which leads to even more people seeing and upvoting them. Downvoted comments end up at the bottom of the thread. If a post is downvoted enough, it eventually becomes hidden, and you have to click to expand it.
Sometimes, posts and comments will have a small cross symbol (†) next to their karma count. This indicates the post is controversial, which means it has a similar amount of upvotes and downvotes.
You can view each Redditor’s total karma on their profile. This karma is divided between post karma, which is the total points of all the threads they posted, and comment karma, which is the total points of the comments they submitted to existing threads.
What Does Karma Do?
Karma doesn’t have any intrinsic value. Because of this, Redditors often joke that all they’re getting are “imaginary internet points.” However, a user who has a lot of karma and an extensive post history is a sign that they’re very active on the site.
While you can’t exchange your karma for anything, a few subreddits require you to have a minimum amount of karma to comment and post. This is especially true for marketplace subreddits that involve meeting and transacting with people outside of the site. Having a lot of karma across multiple posts makes you appear more trustworthy.
When Should I Upvote or Downvote a Post?
The basic rule of Reddit is that you should upvote the things you like, whether that’s a particularly funny joke, a highlight from your favorite football player, or a great question prompt that leads to a lot of interesting stories. Upvoting a post helps other people see it as well. Being an active voter can help improve the Reddit experience for everybody.
Most people agree that votes shouldn’t be as simple as upvoting posts you agree with and downvoting posts you disagree with. If there’s a thought-provoking, balanced discussion going on, make sure to upvote the comments that have good points in them.
Some subreddits have guidelines as to what constitutes a “good post” and a “bad post.” For many communities, however, reposting old content, rehashing the same jokes, and low-effort content such as one-sentence text posts are heavily frowned upon. Downvoting bad posts brings good content to the forefront.
How Do I Get Karma?
While you may be tempted to just post a lot of things in the hope that one of them gets widely upvoted, you should slow down. The practice of spamming reposts and random content to get karma is called “karma farming” and is generally frowned upon on Reddit. In some subreddits, you might be banned for posting too often within the same time period.
The best way to get karma is by posting organically. Find subreddits you enjoy reading and become an active member. Contribute to the discussion by sharing relevant posts, joining in on discussions, or making funny jokes. The users of Reddit love great wit, so a successful attempt at being clever will normally yield upvotes.
Since posts are normally time-sensitive, there’s also a big benefit to being early. You can explore the “rising” or “new” tabs in subreddits so you can be one of the first users to comment. If you run into a breaking piece of news, being the first to post it on the relevant subreddit can get you a ton of karma. In subreddits for sports leagues, multiple accounts try to be the first to post important trades and signings as they lead to tens of thousands of karma points.
Another great way to get karma is by posting original content (OC): original, high-quality posts that start an interesting discussion or show off your creativity. For example, if you’re in a community focused on PC hardware, posting a comprehensive PC-building guide will likely lead to a lot of positive feedback and potentially a few awards.
As a bonus, karma normally comes hand in hand with Reddit awards, which are paid symbols that have tangible benefits. Highly upvoted posts normally get multiple awards. So, while that karma itself won’t buy you anything, awards often arrive as you earn large amounts of karma.