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What will happen if someone fails to press Reddit’s Button?

Find out about the Reddit experiment that's driving the trigger-happy internet crazy

It’s the question that’s been on the lips of every Reddit user for the past fortnight: what will happen if someone fails to press The Button? So far, we’ve not even come close to finding out. 

A little recap for those who haven’t the first clue what we’re talking about. On April Fool’s Day, Reddit put up The Button – a joke that’s turned into a fascinating social experiment. The rules are very simple: a timer counts down from 60 seconds, and is reset every time a registered Reddit user clicks on The Button. Each user can click The Button only once. 

What happens if the timer reaches zero? Nobody knows, because so far almost three quarters of a million users have snapped before the timer runs out. In fact, the lowest recorded time left remaining on the counter at the time of publication is 27 seconds. Yes, there are a lot of very bored people in the world. 

To add a little more intrigue to proceedings, users who have clicked The Button are colour coded. Those who’ve pressed before the timer reaches 52 seconds left are put into the purple band, their status displayed to other users of The Button subreddit. Those who snapped before 42 seconds are coloured blue, while those who managed to hold out until 32 seconds are marked green. The rare few who waited until the counter passed 32 are into the yellow, but as yet nobody has managed to join the orange order for letting the counter run past 22 seconds, let alone the hallowed legion of the reds. Those who have yet to exercise their trigger finger are marked with a dull grey.

Naturally, the geeks amongst the Reddit audience have created data visualisations based on the The Button. James Romeril’s button monitor records the recent history of click timings, while Chris Stevens is keeping track of when the timer reached a record low (thanks to The Guardian for both those links). The first time the timer displayed 27 seconds was two days ago. 

Even if the whole thing sounds thunderously tedious to you, it’s worth reading the posts on the subreddit for some wonderful comments, like this post entitied “My daughter is a filthy presser”. “She’s 13 and barely knows what Reddit is (which is probably for the best),” the post begins. “But I had to know if she was a presser or not. So I carried a remote control into her room, pointed to one of the buttons and said, ‘This is a button’. She immediately pressed it! She didn’t stop to ask why I brought the remote in or why I was pointing to a random button on it or what would happen if she pressed it. She just pressed it! So I kicked her out of the house.”

You have to have been registered with Reddit before 1 April to press the button for yourself. Although we’d really rather you didn’t, just so we know how this story ends. Even if it will almost certainly be a shuddering anti-climax. 

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