Weirdness and world-building: Using Medium to define my (our) humanity

Image from Adobe Stock, and I’m sorry about that, but I have far fewer weird photos on my phone than I thought.

For the last seven months, I’ve been lurking on Medium, trying to figure out why I can’t look away. I spend a lot of time on the site, and I mean a lot. Sometimes I just read and move on. Other times, I clap for articles that speak to me or highlight poignant excerpts and send them and their accompanying link to less invested friends. I occasionally follow and admire interesting people, and I’m tickled when they follow me back. When I’m feeling particularly brave, I even comment various forms of “yeah, man, I’ve been there, too.” And I get a rush when someone agrees with my agreement.

On the surface, I think I just enjoy agreeing — and therefore on some level, connecting — with people I’ve never met. It’s empowering to feel affirmation in a story about body positivity or job hunting because it makes my insecurities our insecurities. It’s rewarding to collectively acknowledge female privilege exists because it seems less sinister — and therefore surmountable — when you say it out loud. It’s fun to embrace our kink because — well, just because it is.

I don’t like living in an echo chamber, though, and I try to find articles with which I disagree at the same frequency as those with which I do. Yet even then, I’m drawn to the passion and authenticity Medium authors bring to their positions.

I’m not new to Medium, to be sure. Before October, I would read a piece here or a piece there, but it wasn’t until I subscribed that it became kind of like my neighborhood bar. It was comfy, familiar, interesting — even a little bit dirty. I have a busy life that includes a whopping total of four jobs, but I keep making time for my daily dose. I’ve even figured out a way to validate these visits by framing them through some quasi-research lens that I argue makes me a better media professional and scholar. I’m 94% sure that’s not true.

Adobe Stock, though I wish I knew this dapper gent.

I greatly enjoy my daily Medium browse, but I’ve only recently been able to articulate why I get so sucked in. The reality is that we are all very, very weird, and Medium provides a space where everyone’s brand of “weird” is equally welcome. This is not a new idea. Fleur Brown talked about our weirdness as our brand almost exactly a year ago in this space, writing — accurately — that “weird is a window into the greatness in people.” Many others have talked about it before, and many more will do it again. Regardless, it’s a good thing to be reminded, and reading a few articles every day is a great way to bring the ugly, painful, bizarre aspects of being human out of the shadows and normalize them. Bodies do weird things; minds are even stranger. Sharing those experiences here reminds us we’re not alone, but it also reminds us that being alone in our weirdness is also a perfectly commendable goal.

My lurking, it turns out, is tinged with minor envy. I read an article and think, “I wish I had time to put thoughts like that into a digestible narrative,” or, “I want my quirks to help someone else embrace their own, just like the articles do for me.” Today, I decided the only thing standing in my way is me. Instead of envying authors I enjoy, why don’t I try being inspired by them? Why don’t I use their strength to share my own stories, both the affecting and the banal, and perhaps help someone else feel a little more at ease with being a fabulously odd human? Sure, many of us can talk to our friends or family members about our idiosyncrasies and (we hope) most of them will feel the same about us. However, sometimes hearing from strangers that you’re not as peculiar as you once thought — or that you are just as peculiar as you thought and that’s awesome — is infinitely more profound.

Early in grad school, Walter Fisher whispered seductively in my ear about the narrative paradigm, and I became a devout follower of the idea that humans are storytellers and that we both build and understand our world through stories. That’s what Medium does for all of us, in at least some small way. It’s a place where we can be the architects of the world we want to live in, one story at a time.

Medium has given me the gift of finally knowing that eccentric hobby, that slightly off-center feeling, that outlandish perspective is precisely what makes me — and all of you — interesting. After months of reading your stories, I’m going to try my hand at returning the favor.

So by way of an introduction, hi there. I’m Erin. I’m pretty weird, but so are you. Let’s share stories.