I hate everyone on the internet.1
I was recently told to create for myself a presence on Medium, so I spent today doing that. And it made me egregiously sad.
I don’t know if you’ve ever spent any time on Medium, but the gist of it is that it’s a place where anyone can write anything and call it an article, and supposedly, the quality articles rise to the top because they get the most claps (likes) and responses. Of course, as with all social media, this doesn’t happen, because the world is one big popularity contest and the people who are popular are the loud ones and the mean ones and the pretty ones, and not the ones with any real talent. If you scroll through some of the most popular Medium posts for the day, you’ll see a plethora of typos and grammar or spelling mistakes, plus too many articles to count just rehashing what someone else said better. I even ran across a top article that was literally three paragraphs of quote and the author just restating the quote and agreeing with it. One of the responses said, “insightful article!”
Shortly after, I got into a (civil) argument with someone about what it means to be a writer and that it takes more than just passion and consistency. He still doesn’t agree with my point. (Which makes me think he hasn’t put in the time and effort to be a good writer. But that’s another thing.) So I’ve decided that I absolutely hate Medium and everyone on it, but I’m going to give it a whirl, because why not try to get myself famous. The bar is low for quality articles, so I just have to get mine in front of the right people.
I couldn’t help but draw parallels between my time on Medium and my time spent in the recesses of Reddit’s writing pages. I imagine, actually, that they’re populated by a lot of the same people. But either way, a lot of the same mindsets prevailed. Mediocrity reigned. Emphasis was on feel-good messages, not craft or quality content. People aren’t interested in reading, just writing. No one wants to get better, they just want to tell other people how to get better.2
Nothing is about craft. No one cares about craft. Not in real, discernible, tangible ways. Oh sure they’ll tell you they care. On Reddit, they’d ask for feedback, but they’d expect you to tell them what they wanted to hear and then argue with you if you didn’t. On Medium, they’ll write articles on how to be a good writer, a better writer, a writer people want to read, but they clearly have no grasp of the finer points of language. It gets views and claps, and the people reading it don’t know the difference. Why not spread terrible advice like an incurable virus of illiteracy?
I was recently talking to a friend of mine who was telling me that a short, not-even-thinking-about-it comment he made had absolutely made someone’s day, and he found it sad. In part because it was that easy to make someone’s day and he didn’t do it more often, but also because it was just that easy to make that person’s day.
Low standards. Was that person’s life really so mundane that a side comment made her day? Does that Medium writer really have no concept that his work is subpar? Now, I know it’s not a perfect comparison, because we’ve all had our days made by small comments from people we love. But the feelings are the same. We should hope for more out of life. Out of our work.
I don’t know when or where it started,3 but somewhere along the line emphasis was taken off of quality and ability and was placed instead on “you can be whatever you want to be.” Which is true. You can be whatever you want to be. With years of hard work and dedication and learning. And even then, you still might be terrible at it, in which case in the past no professional in the field would give you the time of day unless there was nepotism involved, and you’d move onto something more worth your time and more suited to your abilities. Because you’ve got ’em. Even if what you really want to do isn’t in your wheelhouse, I believe that you’re going to be amazing at something else.
But in the age of self-publishing, even if the professionals in the field won’t give you the time of day, you can still get your voice out there. And professionals are starting to take notice of the decline in quality and instead of fighting against it, they’re playing into it, and publishing loads of worthless books.
So the fight in this article has very little bearing on the industry standard, it’s just a cry from the deepest parts of my heart for you to abandon mediocrity and help me make this world a less soul-crushing place. I can’t do it without you.4
2Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m just not reading the right articles. Feel free to tell me in the comments.
4Honestly, scrolling through Medium made me want to give up. There’s no point in fighting when you’re fighting a losing battle. The English language is changing for the worse, as I’m sure people in Shakespeare’s time thought, too.