I’ll just echo what Dex and Chronos have said.
Basically, from the title or the poster you can make out if the thread has the potential to cause trouble. e.g. if I see a thread with RealDollTM in the title, I have to click it. Then I have to click every link in the thread. Then I forget what I was doing before I got there, and I leave the modding to the other guys.
So, yes, mods do open threads they wouldn’t otherwise be reading. Then, as Dex pointed out, if a post has been reported we have to read the thread regardless of whether the topic interests us. Sometimes it’s easy to make a call just by reading the problem post, other times we have to read the entire thread in the interest of fairness to all parties involved in the dispute. Yet other times, we either don’t have enough information or enough knowledge about the topic at hand, so we send out modmail and try to reach a consensus on a course of action.
There is an insane amount of backstage activity that I had no clue about before I became mod.
Effectively, you have less time to do regular surfing and posting. Like earlier I used to answer every computer question in GQ, now I just chime in once in a while if there isn’t already a satisfactory answer in the thread.
Ofcourse, it’s all voluntary, and we do it because we love this place and its sheeple.