Learning to be Part of The Medium Community
It’s Hard When You’ve Gotten Used to Being a Loner For so Long
So I have spent hours absorbed in reading other people’s work on Medium. Sometimes, the time I had allocated to writing was used up mostly by reading.
But reading instead of writing is not a problem.
I still make time every day for writing. It’s just that some days I write more than others. Other days I read more.
At first, I wasn’t too sure finding my way around on Medium. I had to learn how it all worked.
It wasn’t until I read an article a few weeks ago on how the financial benefits behind the Partner Program worked that I understood how clapping worked.
I had clapped for articles I liked, but often only one or two claps and sometimes if I loved the article I clapped 5 or 6 times. I thought I was generous.
I did not want to appear to be a weirdo, a stalker, or a “try hard.”
I did not realize until I had read the article that you could clap up to fifty times for an article that you liked. Then I worried that all the people whom I had applauded for up to then would think I had been deliberately stingy.
Avoiding groups for the last twenty years
As much as I have been going it alone, and deliberately have not gotten involved in anything remotely connected to a group since I left Jehovah’s Witnesses twenty years ago (when I was shunned by all my former friends and family) I have realized lately that part of me misses being “part of something” desperately.
I realized quite quickly after joining that Medium is a bit different than other platforms.
Medium is different
For one thing, I was struck straight away by how much more respectful it appeared.
I didn’t see any snide passive aggressive comments, name calling or put-downs even in response to articles clearing taking a political or environmental stand; the sort of articles that would be an invitation for ‘trolls’ on other platforms. I was impressed.
I read an article about how Medium gives the ability to block or report abusive users or to switch off the comment section, and I was impressed with the provisions made.
Obviously, since that first month, I have read from other writers how they have had to cope with messages and comments, from readers derogatory to their work. But I am impressed that there are procedures in place that appear to be working.
I could tell within a few hours, by the quality of most of the writing, that it was a platform that encouraged people who had knowledge in particular areas to share, and also was a platform for those who wished to draw on their life stories and experiences to help and inform others.
There was such a wide variety of subjects, topics, and people from all different backgrounds represented, and I felt intuitively that it was a place that was trying to be inclusive, and trying to give a platform for all who wished to have a voice.
I still feel that way.
Anxiety evoked by interacting
But I also quite quickly realized how other writers and readers appeared to interact, converse, comment and engage with ease and how in comparison I could feel my anxiety instantly becoming engaged when I communicated.
When I read an article that particularly moves, informs or touches me in some way, I feel compelled to comment.
But I always second guess myself.
Did I say too much, or too little?
Will they think I am only engaging to push myself on them?
Did I speak enough of why I liked the article?
Have I come across as creepy?
I am managing my anxiety.
I want to encourage others, and not just that, I want to let others know if what they have written has touched me.
“Stupid unhelpful” critical brain put me downs
Sometimes I am so engaged in reading on Medium, that I leave it to the last minute to drive and get to work on time. I hardly have time to write my comment, and then when I am driving to work my brain kicks in. “What did you say?”
If I said only a sentence such as, “Awesome, thanks so much for writing this article” my brain starts to think, “Will they think I am a complete dork? Was that stupid to say that?”
I have since had people say the same few words for some of my articles, and I love it!
I love that someone has responded even if they only have said a few words.
It does not matter to me at all that it is just a few words. There is no way I would think less of them.
So why do I do this to myself?
Why do I second guess myself all the time?
Loss of confidence
I think I have missed and delayed being part of a community, or any group, for so long, that I have completely lost my confidence in engaging with a community.
- I am scared to be rejected.
- I am scared I will be thought of as “stupid” or “not good enough.”
- I am scared to write the wrong thing and be dismissed by writers I admire, and people I follow, and others whom I barely know, but want to be accepted by and included.
“40 Things I Love” challenge on Medium
Just recently, there has been a challenge on Medium doing the rounds, to write about “40 Things I Love”.
I had four beautiful writers tag me over about a week and a half to include me in the challenge.
I have never participated in any “group challenge” on social media or anywhere, ever. I always pass.
I don’t even know why.
I am unsure.
I think I am afraid that what I say or do, may not be good enough, or I may offend.
If I am meant to tag others, I am scared of being annoying, or they will be pissed off at me, or if I miss someone who thinks I ought to tag them, I will inadvertently upset someone.
I ended up participating in the challenge.
I kept it simple.
I appreciated one thousand percent being tagged in the challenge, and that people even bothered to give me the chance or the time of day, to even want to tag me.
I gave it my best shot with the levels of anxiety I was experiencing.
I did not tag anyone else (that was beyond me at the time).
My fear at tagging someone who may already have done the challenge (and therefore appearing a fool) or tagging someone who may NOT want to do the challenge, and thus annoying someone, just became too high for me.
I wanted to participate and be part of the community, so I overcame my anxiety, and I did it.
But it triggered me to think about and self reflect on what was really going on for me, and made me realize a few things.
I am used to going it alone. Going it alone is easy for me. It is not a challenge.
I have done so for the last twenty years.
I nearly lost my life over the hurt from being rejected by all family and friends I had ever known when I left Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs).
After I left JWs, I completed a university degree, worked in government seven years, completed telephone counseling courses, completed postgraduate certificates and diplomas and done voluntary work.
But, in the middle of doing all that I have socially kept to myself.
I have remained quite isolated. I go and do the work and come home. I make excuses for not going out in the evenings.
I meet people one on one for coffees. I have a handful of very close friends I completely trust. But I do not do group things. I pull away. I do not get involved.
And now I realize that I miss it.
I think when I joined Medium I felt that this was somewhere online that I could participate that would allow me to remain quiet in the background. I can write and put my work “out there” but stay separate.
And I can do that. I am sure many do.
But I have realized that I don’t want to. I want to be actively involved.
I want to be included. I want to include others.
But I am pretty damn scared.
When you want to be “a part of” so much it sets you up to also maybe “not be wanted to be a part of” and that is scary.
It also is like the part of my brain that remembers names, remembers past conversations and interactions is completely rusty.
I will think someone “sounds familiar,” but I need to go back and look at past “responses” to trigger my memory of past conversations with them. I am scared of “offending someone” by not remembering.
It won’t be that I am ignorant, or trying to be offensive, or that our past conversation did not have meaning to me. It is that I am just bloody awful at being a group member.
I am entirely out of practice at being part of a community.
I am okay and used to winging it alone but I have realized that I don’t want to anymore.
I want to keep writing here and in two years, five years and ten years, be part of this community, known to many, and have thousands of “engagements” both with other writers and with readers of my work.
- I want to belong.
- I want to engage fully.
- I want to actively encourage others, and have others engage actively with me.
- I want my responses to become less anxiety provoking and more fluid and automatic.
- I want to feel like I am connecting and getting to know others.
- I would love when I start to travel overseas with my husband in the next three years to have gotten to know people on here to the point where when we go to other countries we may even be able to meet up and have dinner or coffee. How awesome would that be?
- I want to build meaningful relationships within this writing community.
I am feeling comfortable here, but I need to push my comfort zone out a bit wider.
I know I am ready to try within my own little community where I am currently living to also get involved in some community group.
I am ready to take the first tentative steps to be amongst a group of people again who meet up regularly, with all the positive and negative connotations that may entail.
I am ready to be a more active part of the human race again.
Wow. I can’t believe I said that.
I never even thought I was missing community until I started writing the “Forty of my Favorite Things” challenge and thought about why I was finding it so hard to participate.
So here goes. I am in it boots and all. Let’s see where my boots lead me.
And for all the writers and readers who have commented, clapped, and followed me in my journey on Medium in the last three months a big THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.
You have no idea how encouraging, soul-affirming and life-giving your encouragement has been.
I hope I can give back in equal measure and open my heart up more to keep on being a part of this community.
It has been a stepping stone for me growing in confidence to start to be more involved with REAL people, in the flesh, and online which I have avoided for so long and only just realized that I am now missing.
My life is more abundant for this experience.
Thank you, all.