Why I Don’t Like Medium Anymore
Don’t Be Offended, It Doesn’t Like Me Either
My seventh grade class had a hierarchy similar to the kind everyone experiences. There was the prettiest girl, the most popular guy, their friends, and then everyone else.
I’m surprised by how often they get that wrong on movies and TV. Scripts always depict this defined cadre of nerds or outcasts. It’s rarely like that. There’s a ruling class, and there’s everyone else getting on in their own way — popular with each other, variably athletic, smart, geeky, good-looking, cool, tough, funny, talented, broken, bad or troubled in little fluid clusters that could change with the time of day. All with a story, but just not “royal.”
Lisa was the prettiest girl in my seventh grade class. And she was going out with Jay — a good-looking kid and arguably the best athlete. He was also one of the nicest guys in the world. We’d end up going to the same high school and being good friends freshman year , drawing our own comic books and playing Tecmo Super Bowl— until he realized he was destined for much cooler friends than me.
Around Valentine’s Day our class followed the rather common tradition of putting a decorative box at the front of the class. Anyone could drop in a card for someone they liked, or even just to be friendly. A couple of our classmates — Michelle and the twins Jessica and Jennifer — were sweet enough to drop 30 cards so that even the poorest got to eat cake.
When Valentine’s Day hit, Lisa volunteered to distribute the contents of the box. Why shouldn’t she? She’d get to stop at her own desk every 10 seconds or so to drop off yet another for her. I’d know her for four years, and can’t recall another time she smiled so wide. I’d call it innocent joy, except this day wasn’t just about her ever-rising boon of Hallmark love.
Every time she dropped a card to any of the awkward, nerdy or overweight kids, she’d approach their desks singing “It’s a Miracle” by Culture Club. The two times she approached my desk (Thanks Michelle. Thanks Jen. Thanks Jessie) were much the same. “It’s a miracle. It’s a mir-uh-cull.” Smiling. Pleased with herself. Almost pausing, waiting for me to join in on the joke. “Wait.. HA! You’re right, Lisa. I really am gross.” Or was she waiting to see my eyes sink hollow, my exhale — any of a dozen physical manifestations of feeling belittled and insignificant and unworthy?
Years later, yeah, it’s funny. 12 year-olds harmlessly jabbing at each other. Toughening emotional skin. Tiny hurdles that teach you to love yourself.
Thanks for the life lesson. (Eating disorder? Rub some dirt on it!)
Up until this weekend, my very first post on Medium had the highest read count of anything I’d written. A whopping 254 reads. I know. Mind… blown. But easy there, bud. It’s not like I found a pot of “read” riches at the end of a rainbow after a shower of green hearts (it’s only been recommended six times). This baby took time — 18 months in fact — to rack up those reads, and most of that is likely due to the “sex” in the title.
The reason I liked that first piece is because it started as a joke on Twitter, replying to my own tweet over and over to see how far I could carry the joke. “Love Sneaks Up On You” happened in similar fashion. I was in the middle of a Hangouts conversation with a friend going through a divorce. She called me an idiot after the “burlap sack” line.
This weekend a post I wrote about trolls nudged past my first post.
It’s the most-read thing I have up here.
And it bores the shit out of me.
That sounds obnoxious. But it shouldn’t, because I’m not complaining. I was thrilled to get the modest bump to my tiny stats. I smiled at every little uptick of my green bars. I’m glad people read and seemed to enjoy. And I enjoyed writing it — because I like exploring a thought on figurative paper.
I just didn’t enjoy it as much as other things. I like making people laugh. I like a clever turn of phrase. And I like touching people. I’ve done a lot less of that last one since I’ve started writing here. I find myself thinking less and less about what I want to write and more about what I can write about that will stuff more hearts in the box with my name on it.
I’m a reformed blogger. I loved the daily, communal nature of blogging. Yeah, it was ultimately unsustainable. A lot easier when I was 25 to write 300–400 words every day — largely unedited, mostly stream of conscious, but heartfelt and genuine. And to read up on the same four to five people every day, wowed by their talent, their openness, the way their minds worked, and their stories — that were so different than mine, but somehow struck a chord.
And I guess that’s why I don’t like Medium anymore. Back in the blogger-sphere, the only way to judge whether my writing resonated was how proud I was of it at the end. Medium seems to set up a fool’s errand for me — the prouder I am of something, the bigger the wet blanket when the numbers roll in.
I am rooting for the people for whom Medium seems to be a nice fit — some of whom started in a similar place as me and worked their asses off and used every resource to build an audience. And many of whom are much more talented than I am. So all of you who read this far and are thinking those things, shut up. I’m way ahead of you.
Because that’s exactly my point. I’m not “royal.” I’m not a writer. I’m not someone who turns out 800 words, and when you get to the end you say, “Damn…” And I don’t think I ever intended to be. But even worse, Medium makes it even harder for me to.
Back in the blogger-sphere, the personal and private nature of my page made it such a great outlet that occasionally drove me to write when I was feeling something. A bad date. A phone call from the largely absent parents. A strong desire to quit my job. A reminder that I am literally the least successful person ever to graduate from my college (literally). All of those feelings turned into words — almost in real time. Bittersweet and funny, self-effacing and (hopefully) poignant at the same time.
But if I can’t deal with something I’m proud of getting no love, I’m not sure I can bear it with a piece of me. And that’s why I don’t begrudge Medium-at-large for not giving me hearts. Because I haven’t given mine.
A quick note (October 2016)
At the time of this note, I wrote the piece you just read slightly over a year ago. I had been writing on Medium for just over a year, and only one thing I’d written had triple digit views.
I’m not sure why it has suddenly popped up on people’s feeds again. But I’m getting responses similar to what I got when I first wrote it. A) You’re bashing Medium, B) Same here, or C) Ignore the stats/You’re the problem.
My replies, in order — A) Nope, B) Fist bump, and C) Duh.
The whole point of this piece is that I wasn’t tough enough, and I need to get over it. So anyone who responded with an analysis of my personality — sorry, I got you beat. My decades of experience with myself trumps your analysis of 1,200 words I wrote. I knew that when I wrote it, and I knew that I had to change.
In the first round of responses someone accused me of trying to get attention. For what purpose? Someone would read my self-assessment of not being tough enough to handle Medium and offer me a job at The New Yorker? The “South Park” Underpants Gnomes had a better strategy than that.
I considered Unlisting this piece to stop the critique of sentiments that are 13 months old. But I in no way want to appear spiteful to people giving thoughtful responses — even ones suggesting that I should seek counseling. One of the ways I’ve developed a better relationship with this platform is by refraining from expressing my feelings on here — something I did on my blog regularly. That’s my solution. Others express their feelings here regularly to much success, and I applaud them. I stopped doing that, ironically, because of the responses to this post. So thanks to all who responded. You helped turn my Medium experience around.