I’m starting my 3rd year on Medium, I’m still following you and hoping you’ll come back
So I’ve hit the two year mark on Medium and I decided to do the retrospective piece. I remember as if it was only yesterday, the first time I logged on to Medium and posted something only to be shocked when I finally got a little heart or two. That was Medium, BC (before the clap) when Medium had hearts and everyone had just one heart to give each piece.
The first time someone highlighted something I wrote I thought it looked messy and I didn’t like it, but then it grew on me, a lot. It meant someone liked something, or they were being kind, pointing out a typo. It varied.
I got a twitter account and discovered people had shared things that I wrote. I didn’t understand it at first. What did they mean by it? The notion that something I wrote in my little home might be shared on social media sort of blew my mind. What the heck were they thinking? Maybe they didn’t read very closely.
I am, and will always be an insecure writer — at least some of the time. And also, thin-skinned and full of self-doubt. I bet I’m not alone in that. On some days I’m bound to feel unloved if I don’t have many claps and if I do, certain that people are just being kind and merely reciprocating claps, (please don’t do that). I have a lose-lose mentality writing here some days. And yes, I’m laughing when I say that. I see I’m ridiculous, whatever. I am who I am. I’m human and vulnerable as hell — just like everyone.
I went through some of the people I’m following over the past few days. I had trimmed my following list a year ago and it’s under 700. I unfollowed the people I had automatically followed back. They were people I didn’t know and people who weren’t writing. Medium used to suggest people to follow at sign up and many people received followers that way. When I initially signed up, I followed the people Medium recommended. Then I discovered they hadn’t written for a year when Medium suggested them. It’s probably a good thing that they seem to not be doing that any longer.
I used to follow back as a rule because it seemed the polite thing to do. But I discovered people count on that and some people were using others that way. The number of followers is such a status thing. I think it’s meaningless as a number, but meaningful when someone liked something I wrote enough to think they might want to read something else by me in the future. That kind of follow is truly humbling. I’m always afraid I’ll disappoint them, but if you read the above, then you get it.
On Medium the number of followers used to make your stories and your recommendations rank higher. I don’t think that’s true any longer, but I don’t know for sure. Being recommended by someone with a massive following doesn’t seem to make your pieces ranking higher like it used to.
Medium deciding to highlight your piece doesn’t even ensure more reads these days. That’s why it will always be more important to write for yourself — write to get better at writing — than to reach an audience you might not have for a particular piece, or even all of your work.
Anyway, back to the people I follow. As I scrolled through, I saw so many dear faces. People I used to read and know and exchange comments with for a year or more. I wonder, are they well? Are their families okay? Did they move on to something bigger and better? Most importantly, are they still writing?
After two years on Medium, that’s what I’m feeling — sad about the people who have gone away. I won’t unfollow them, I will continue to hope they come back. Life is full of loss. Medium is not an exceptional place in that regard. But there’s no way of mourning those people. No way to bring them back. No way of knowing what happened to them. This leaves me feeling sad and unresolved.
I do also feel happy about the new people who have shown up. I hope I won’t lose them too. I feel like the writing on Medium keeps getting better. I’m sorry that the vapid life-hacking crowd seems to be as much a part of Medium as ever. However, I believe there are more people writing beautiful things than there are people writing the cotton candy empty puffy stuff. What I find more astonishing than the fact that people write click-bait, is how many people like those kinds of articles. I think when it comes to writing it should be like — go deep or go home. But I’m an idealist.
I was surprised to find that many of the people I follow and don’t see in my feed are still writing. But not really, that’s the way it had been feeling. It seems like I see 20–30 people regularly. Everyone seems to think that’s true. Sometimes it feels like it’s even less than that. Sometimes the people I follow are unfollowed through some sort of Medium glitch. Then I wonder what that person will think when I follow them again. Maybe they won’t think anything at all, who knows?
I was also surprised by how many people there are that I read so regularly that I didn’t realize I’m not actually following them. I’m making an effort to follow them now. My anniversary resolution is to follow the people I really like and comment more. I suppose I bring my shyness with me wherever I go, even online. Sometimes I don’t know what to say other than — beautiful, because sometimes people write things that are so striking, there to nothing else you can say.
I read the last things written by the people who left Medium or who I don’t see in my feed regularly. If you’re ever bored by the feed, give it a try. It’s better than complaining about the feed and writing a rant piece. I found some really wonderful and meaningful pieces I had missed.
I’m definitely going to make it a resolution to go through the list of people I’m following more — and reading from the tags. There are far too many people writing lovely things who are not being read than there should be.
No writer should go unread.
I don’t think it’s possible for Medium to create an algorithm that bumps up great work. I know the curators try to promote writers who have been overlooked. I think that’s wonderful. I wonder what happens when people don’t get read, hopefully they stick with it or only give up on Medium and not on writing in general.
So what else do I think about writing here for two years? I’m grateful that Medium established the partner program. The first money I ever made for my writing was through Medium. The money I make here is not enough to pay my rent. (Not even close.) But it’s still useful and the validation of getting anything at all means a lot to me. I mean, you know if you even make half an effort to get published in traditional journals, you usually have to pay for the honor of being read and not chosen for publication. I felt demoralized, I wanted to give up writing. Instead, I gave up on those publications.
Medium has given me a place to be read. Honestly, how fucking great is that? This month, according to my stats, almost 8,000 people read my work. Would literary journal xyz give me such an audience? Doubt it.
I hope the partner program will continue and grow. There’s something amazing about being an independent writer and being able to earn some money for writing without having an MFA or the kind of pedigree some of the elite publications require. Honestly, that’s the reason there’s a boring kind of sameness in some publications. I find some magazines have stories and articles that make it a practice to use the least frequently used words in the English language just to show off. It’s as if inaccessibility assures elite intellectuals of their intellectual prowess. But writing in “plain English” is always more enjoyable to read and it requires more skill.
Maybe the Medium membership program has caused some people to leave. I hope that’s not the case. I pay the $50.00 annual membership fee and I feel it’s worth it. But if some people feel like they’re being blocked from reading writers they follow, I get why they left. I also know what they’re missing. I spend more time reading here than I do at other publications. The writers here are not “amateurs”. Some are pro’s and some are pre-pro’s.
I could probably write a lot more about my experience on Medium. Mostly I want to say thank you to Medium for the platform and thank you to all the amazing writers here. Keep writing! Don’t leave! Also, those who left, come back! I miss you!