For any who don’t know, Medium is, for the most part, an elegant publishing platform. Call it a blogging service if you wish; there are far too many names for what they provide. Rather than paying for a web host, getting a domain, setting up WordPress or some other content management system (yet another name), installing a theme, and getting all of the visual stuff worked out, you just sign up for an account and start writing. It’s a tool I recommend if you simply can’t be bothered with figuring out all of the above, though I recommend figuring it out at some point if you plan on having an online writing presence long-term.
Medium is visually appealing, and it’s probably good enough for the typical user. However, I decided to leave the service for a number of (what I consider) important reasons.
A little too modern
With Medium, there’s no WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, per se. Rather than having a toolbar at the top of your writing form, there are tooltips that hover by highlighted passages. This saves a little bit of mouse movement. Problem is, some buttons have numerous functions, and some functions have no buttons to represent them. As far as I know, you cannot edit a link; rather, you have to unlink and relink. There are also flat-out less editor features than, say, WordPress. As I said, this is fine for most users, but power users will not be satisfied, and if you have a large following with specific flavor and personality in your presentation, Medium is not cher’ boy.
Your profile page is even more confusing. As a regular user you don’t get a customizable header, or content layout, or footer. Your profile description below your name is pretty restricted, allowing only a few characters and not offering obvious options for displaying links. You can display raw url’s but you cannot name links. In this way, every person’s profile page is very similar, which is refreshing in some ways and annoying in others.
You can pin one post to the top of your feed, but some people like to organize by category or genre, some like to manually order their posts, some like having a magazine style layout while others like a simple Twitteresque feed. These options are available, but only to publications. In other words, in order to get some fairly basic features, you have to create a publication and publish all of your “stories” to two channels, your personal page and your publication. Many just make a publication using their personal profile name.
The login feature is something I wrote about recently, and it’s something they ought to fix. In short, we do not need web developers to hold our hands, so we should be able to turn off the “confirm by email or number” feature. And I wonder if it shouldn’t be added to the web developers bible that every front page should have a pop-up or front page login. Why we have to navigate numerous pages and confirmations to log into a website is beyond me.
This will be a fairly specific observation, but as a person who’s been exploring lately just how easily distracted we are, Medium is exactly that. Medium’s front page is chock full of articles. You’ve got the newest stories, stories based on what you read, the most popular stories on the platform, etc. What’s worse, many of the popular pieces on Medium show up at the top of the page, and there’s an obvious political bent that taints the feed.
If you use uBlock Origin, you can choose blocks of content and hide them, though I don’t know how long that lasts. It’s also a band-aid solution for me. I will forget what I’ve blocked and sometimes just reset the plugin. Stephen King and other renowned writers advise removing as many distractions as possible, and though writing on a computer may not be the best way to do that, Medium doesn’t help.
When you read a story, there are links at the bottom with related reading. There are highlighted passages, claps, responses. If it’s a publication, there are header links. In my humble opinion, a “story” or article or essay should be like a book; the page, and nothing else if you can help it. I’ve tried to do that with this website.
There’s an ideological bent
I have not scoured the entirety of Medium’s user catalogue, but I have noticed during my time on Medium an inordinate amount of far-left rhetoric, anti-white sentiment, and pro-militant feminism. During the Kavanaugh hearings, it appeared as if reason left the room. Whatever your view of the matter, due process was being tossed aside as a protection of white male privilege. It’s always worrying to see this online, because it seems to accurately depict popular public opinion at least some of the time. What I have to remind myself is that most people don’t give a damn about this stuff.
To be clear: it would be just as annoying if Medium had an unbalanced share of far-right rhetoric, xenophobic sentiment, and pro-militant masculinism. One hopes that Medium will eventually improve their algorithm to reflect less of an echo chamber and more of a scrambling device that exposes people to varied opinion and interpretation.
I chose WordPress for a number of reasons. It only shows our content rather than a bunch of links to other peoples content in my posts and pages. It’s less distracting. It’s more customizable so I don’t have to settle for social media icons and a streamlined layout. When people read content here they don’t get a pop-up telling them to sign up for anything. None of the content is beholden to a platform or interest; the audience is whoever navigates to this url and wants to read.
This brings us back to distraction. Computers and smartphones and platforms like Medium offer too much in too little a space. It takes too much mental real estate, so I offer some closing recommendations.
Host a personal blog if you’re going to write. ZenHabits inspired the minimal design and like I said, online articles should be like books: page, content, nothing else if possible.
Read more books and less online content. Watch less YouTube. It may seem strange to recommend this on an online platform, but there it is. I would never recommend that you spend large portions of your time on this website or any other. It would take lifetimes to read and fully appreciate all of the classics, but if you haven’t read at least some of them (Meditations by Marcus Aurelius?), do you really need to spend hours on Medium and Twitter? I can promise you that many of the writers you read do not match the wit or mastery of Aurelius, Dickens, Hitchens.
If you like coming here, maybe make it once a week, read something, and get off. Your precious attention is being eaten up by smartphones and computers and internet. Find peace in good ol’ paper and ink. We have a recommended reading page if you’re interested.
I hope you find whatever writing platform works best for you. As for me, Medium just doesn’t do it.