The Medium Vibe: A Newcomer’s Impression
What makes Medium different.
I was excited to get an invite to Medium this week, and even more excited to see how pleasurable typing on this text editor is. I am working on a novel right now and I kind of wish I could write it using this text editor. (Side note: Can you guys make a novel-writing site?) Then, I was excited to see how much traction my posts could get considering that I am a total newcomer here. Finally, I was excited to see that not just the platform, but the content and community on Medium feel like an evolution of blogging.
Many of us grew up on Live Journal and Xanga (that was my jam in high school), then became addicted to Tumblr (I get made fun of at work for recommending all of our clients get Tumblrs), while also publishing work on sites like Thought Catalog or The Awl. To me, each has its own vibe, its own tone, its own subtle prerequisites for what kind of content rises to the top. On Thought Catalog, sassy, confessional, populist writing abounds. On The Awl, more absurdist, oblique looks at culture tend to rule, like The Only Murdering Guide You Need, You Murderer.
Medium’s content tends to feel very mature (and by that I don’t mean X-rated). Sometimes I feel that blogging sites are either “twentysomething lands” or places that sigh and groan about hating the “twentysomething lands.” (I must add that I am guilty of contributing to both of these worlds … and I am a twentysomething.) What I’m trying to say is that there is not a lot of snark or judgment here. In fact, comments are private until the author chooses to make them public and people are writing about how people who “recommend” their posts are potential new friends. It feels very positive - and I don’t get the sense people will comment “tl;dr” on my posts.
What people seem to choose to write on Medium tends to be overwhelmingly aspirational. Most of the posts on Medium are, in some way, about trying to become a better person. It seems to me that people get here and think, “I’m going to write something like ‘How to Be Happy.’ Not that I have it all down, but just because this site is so bright and everyone is trying to be a good person here that maybe I will write out a road map for myself.”
In that sense, it reminds me of Pinterest. We often describe Pinterest to our clients as a place where people go to plot out their aspirational lives. Their ideal home. Their ideal look. Their ideal sense of aesthetics. Medium feels to me like the written cousin of that creative impulse.
I think part of the reason that Medium has become a home for this type of writing is that it was initially released (making an assumption here - correct me if I’m wrong) only to tech startup types, like the people behind it, and then writers. A lot of posts on here have headlines like, “How to Change Your Habits for Good,” and are essentially advertisements for someone’s start-up. In that sense, sometimes I feel like I’m reading The Verge when I’m on here. It’s possible that the abundance of tech-minded, startup-friendly writers on here might be warding off some of the grouchiness inherent in writers/bloggers. (I say this as a writer/blogger, very familiar with my own grouchiness.)
I do wonder how Medium will change when it is opened up to the general public. (I assume that’s the plan?) Every site tends to change and morph over time, depending on who holds the pen.
Either way, I have become obsessed with Medium somewhat quickly. I’m in a place in my life where I am trying to be more productive (and positive), and I just so happen to be needing somewhere less snarky to stretch out in.
I may be jumping the gun by trying to analyze this community after only a few days of being on here, but it’s so obviously different in a cohesive way that I felt compelled to share my impression. (Anyone who is interested in the thinking behind Medium should read this amazing case study.)
I will not be writing “How to Be Happy” yet - still trying to figure that one out. But I will be choosing Medium as the home for writing about trying to be a better person.