These “Many 1s Amount” of Scientifically Tried and Tested Methods for Coping with Medium

This was going to be a numbered listicle of ways to cope with Medium today, but because I’m misusing the automatic formatting tools built into Medium, all the items are 1.

It’s, like, six or seven items, maybe. That’s getting into higher maths territory for this poor poet, so I’m not sure.

Numbers are stupid anyway. So fuck numbers.

Getting right into these tried and true and one hundred percent scientific strategies.

  1. Run the numbers.

Well…never mind. I guess I love numbers.

This would have been awkward, but it isn’t, because I misspelled awkward when I looked it up in the dictionary.

Honestly, though, run the numbers. Sometimes it feels as if the world we occupy is filled with mean-spirited people whose main hobby is smirking while we cry into our tub of Häagen-Dazs.

(At which image I laugh. For I never touch Häagen-Dazs anymore. Not since I discovered Talenti. The crying thing still applies.)

When I think of genuinely mean-seeming people in my sphere of the internet, though, I can really only think of two. Maybe three, if I include people who aren’t usually mean but who I would include on my list of what I think of as “Black Magic User” who don’t often start fights but whose writing and presence I consider dangerous.

That’s three people. Altogether, they command an audience of just over a thousand. Their sphere of influence is, technically, small.

Which comforts me, because they’re operating in a universe that cannot possibly be dominated by them. Medium has 200 million users. Until there’s an internet troll in my community followed by Ev, elizabeth, or any other of the wigs, and then also followed by, I don’t know, Felicia, Olan, Wil, and Patrick, or some other — several — major influencer(s) in my life, I don’t think I’ll ever be too concerned about trollish jerks changing the whole Medium universe very much.

Fortunately, so far, those dudes, for the most part, seem discerning enough, or at least busy enough, never to give true trolls the time of day, let alone follow their dumb arguments.

I take comfort in the numbers. For every troll or black magic user I’ve found on Medium, I’ve found literally four hundred good people. I’m neither kidding or making that up. I am following just about exactly 1,100 people right now. I go through my list on the regular, check on what they’re writing, smile about all of it. I don’t always comment or recommend, but I take a look. I am comforted as Lunette’s couch by what I see there.

  1. Beat them at their own game.

(Might do something about this someday, eh, Your Friends @ Medium? I don’t know how hard it would be to code. Probably, do adopt my dad’s parlance — my dad’s a web developer — what’s Medium?

He’s a pretty out-of-touch web developer. We forced him to get a Galaxy S4 a couple years back. He only just figured out how to use the blue tooth.)

The “game” that internet jerks are playing might seem to be a game of pain-mongering and jerk-faced-ness. That’s true-ish, to a certain definition of truth. They’re not even quite playing the game of getting high off attention, which is the other thing it seems like they’re doing.

The pain-mongering and the being a jerk-face stuff is sort of like tools and the attention is the goal.

The game they’re playing is the abuse of social nexus.

See, if you get us in an enclosed system, like life or anything that simulates it, we humans tend toward particular patterns. We have since the beginning of beginnings. We’d like to think we’re original and unique. We are as individuals. We are unique fucking snowflakes, and Durden can suck an acorn till he loses his teeth and I’ll still say we are.

But get us into groups, and the “human psyche” will always average out to the same old patterns. As a mob, we’ll oust the same outrages, cry to the same crooning, flock to the same flows. We are a predictable school of cuttlefish.

Which isn’t, in itself, bad. Because of these patterns, we can have things like society, where you can have a polite conversation with strangers about, I don’t know, bus schedules and that pterodactyl behind you.

(Don’t worry. There’s no pterodactyl… But there might be.

Did you look?)

Some dick-bag bastard-jerks in history, however, having identified how the human animal mobs, found ways to abuse our group instincts. Jerk-faces like Moliere and Mussolini and Mao. These are dudes who diagnosed how the whole human animal behaves and figured out ways to abuse the patterns. Humanity had the bad fortune that those dudes, for whatever reason, had entourages and tanks and armies and things.

On a far smaller scale, certain much smaller jerk-faces make our little universes hell. They have an intuitive grasp on the patterns we tend to follow, and they know how to game those patterns to get attention.

On Medium, that can be fairly apparent, because Medium rewards interaction. And these jerk-faces know exactly how to abuse interaction. A few personal snipes over there, some wildly incendiary opinions sprinkled over a field of unverifiable credentials, and a huge amount of responsiveness… Easy recipe for a massive amount of attention.

The real game they’re playing is abusing the predictable patterns that we follow. Because they can’t abuse a big universe, they’re abusing this, in some ways, easily manipulable universe that Medium has made for us.

In a very real way, the very truths making it possible for all of us timid, introverted, quiet-faced writers to get some validation here is the same truths making it possible for any annoying name to pop up in your feed over and over again.

It doesn’t mean that the universe of Medium is having a problem, or that it’s changing. It means that the universe of Medium is like the real universe, and that your corner of it is full of jerks or dullards at the moment.

The main reason these jerks and dullards are playing this game here: it’s easy to play here. It’s easy, if you’re a jerk, to manipulate Medium. Medium’s an objective, passive, operation of computation and mathematics. Its movements are fed by its users. Most of its users are decent, well-meaning types. Some of its users are jerks. Jerks are loud, and Medium rewards loud people.

How, then, do you beat these jerks at that game?

Simple enough: go get a cup of coffee.

Seriously. These jerks are jerks inside of this Medium universe, and any interaction with them fuels their influence in the universe.

Out in the bigger universe, you can get a cup of coffee, and you can call up your friend and say, “Dude! This jerk-head on the internet totes just said a dumb-ass thing. I’m so totally cheesed off by this. Anyway…want to go for pastries? Tapas? Something? Cool.”

Medium doesn’t know you did that. All Medium knows is that there’s one less data point it can use to justify pushing this jerk-faced user a tick or two higher in the feed.

Then you can come back, refresh your feed, find something else more cool to read.

This applies not only to jerks, but also to people who’s seeming-hollow message has been persistently annoying you forever.

It might not seem significant, just ignoring. It’s significant. The effect is slow, but in the same way that the system rewards persistent — annoying — users, it fails to reward them if they don’t get anything.

But Oliver, I hear me say, what about these arguments:

  • “They’re ruining the experience for everyone. Someone should put them in their place!”

They know they’re ruining the experience for everyone. That’s why they’re doing it. Someone should put them in their place, but it should be someone with administrative powers. You can’t argue them to a better and more valuable way of interacting with people. They’re jerks, and they want to be jerks, and if you tell them they’re jerks or argue with them then it only validates them.

If they’re a genuine interference with the community, then you should report them. As often as possible. Tell your friends to as well. Push it to someone who gets paid to deal with jerks. You do not deserve the stress.

  • “They’re singling me out and seeking to abuse me in personally.”

Again: report them, as much as possible, in as many social media streams as you can find. Unfortunately, our legal system hasn’t figured out yet how to deal with online abusers. They’re working on it. But the government hasn’t proved nimble enough to keep up with this newness.

We’re in the wild west, folks.

The cool thing is, though, most of the big wigs of the tech industry have your back, as much as they can. Ev, Tim, Sundar Pichai, and most of the other grandees of IT really want to make sure you get a fair shake of it. The only reason it doesn’t feel like it sometimes is that you’re an whispering drop in a torrent of outcry, and they just haven’t built the infrastructure yet to deal with all of our pleas.

You might feel like they don’t care. They do. I feel it in my marrow. They just haven’t figured out how to help yet.

In the meantime, we can help them by providing them with data. There’s a reason they make it easy to report abusers. They need the data. If they’re armed with enough data, they can start to design the right kind of defenses for us.

Report abusers. It might feel like it does nothing, that you’re having no effect on the hugeness that oppressing you.

That’s just because it’s huge, and you’re small.

But I’m small too.

And that guy over there is small. And his mom is small. And all their friends are small. And all their relatives are small. And that’s already a hundred people, and they know three hundred people each, and…that’s how community works. A million small data points all aggregating to suggest how tomorrow will shape.

It matters. Every abuser you report is your little whisper that you want tomorrow-land to be more fair.

Also, make friends with some lawyers. It’s useful and interesting to keep an ear on how the legal world and the information world are interacting.

  1. Fight back.

Oh, right, they’re all ones. Forgot. This listicle lacks a certain forward impetus…

Anyway, pretend it’s a…whatever number we’re up to. Let’s just count in Troll. We’re up to “many.”

(Pratchett reference for the superfans in the audience.)

We should all fight jerks. We should all fight black magic users and hollow-content mongers and the creatively bankrupt looming cloud of oppression that seems ever-ready to crush us.

I do not, and I cannot stress this at all, mean lash out at anyone who irritates you. Per Item 1. above, lashing out at annoying jerk-wads or dullards only makes everything worse. It never, ever helps.

But you can fight back. You are a writer. You are armed with some of the best weapons yet devised:

  • Satire
  • and Empathy

Really want to fight the swarm? (Which isn’t one. Remember, it’s three people.) Then spread a little laughter and good feels.

I studied propaganda once. Propaganda, when it’s done expertly, looks an awful lot like the internet presence of all your most favorite least favorites.

Propaganda is an exercise in adjusting minds by a strategic use of loud opinions, legitimate sounding data, and emotional manipulation. Which sounds familiar, because all the people on Medium you don’t like are propaganda makers. They aren’t, mostly, masters of propaganda. They’re, at best, shameless self-promoters. But usually they’re small-minded bullies who probably got bullied themselves and couldn’t cope with it, so now they’re making misery in the small universe that they can handle.

This principle still applies: I have it on the authority of people more studied than I am that the only true counter attack to a propaganda regimen is humor.

Humor can mean that what makes you laugh. It can also mean that what makes you joyous.

So fight the jerk-wads: Spread joy.

  1. What if it’s a just cause? What if I have to speak up?

This is what I think about that:

Sometimes, you have to speak up.

There’s this weird pattern of my life that gives me a lot of faith in Medium’s algorithms. I’m always looking just the other way for the drama. Whatever drama it is, trust me to be literally sitting with my back to it. If Switzerland decided one day to forcefully explain how the whole world should be a neutral state, you could pretty much guarantee that I’d be sitting in the far corner of the room with my headphones in and my back to the TV, reading Batman comics or something, and oblivious to the rush of people all looking at these huge changes in the world. I wouldn’t hear about it till the next morning when I showed up to my job the next day and the company where I work had been restructured to make lasers or something.

That holds true for Medium. I almost never see any of the stuff that people point to and say, “This is a sign that all of Medium has broken.” I either sign on at the wrong time, or I don’t check the main feed often enough, or something like that.

I choose to think, though, that I don’t see the drama for another reason.

I think I don’t see the drama because Medium does work. I get to hear about the drama. Lord, yes. I get to watch the peanut gallery — of which proud group I am a proud hanger-on — comment on the drama. My feed, in general, is full of gorgeous, well-meaning writers, trying to have fun.

What I’m seeing is that my side — and there are sides, but not the sides you think — is winning. It’s winning slow and quiet, but it’s winning. The jerk-wads are losing out. Their little flashes of angry fire get some attention for a while, but they don’t have enough substance and fizzle out.

The dullards and the content-mongers, sometimes the same people, are having a certain kind of success. Their numbers are good. They’re gaming the system for all it’s worth, and the system’s rewarding them for it. I can’t actually feel too upset towards them, because they are working, and they are doing a good job. Just because I don’t like reading what they have to say doesn’t mean that they, as people, are invalid and unlikable. I bet that they are likable people. I bet that they’re building something amazing that I don’t know about. I hope so. That would be cool.

I don’t mind that they’re constantly in my feed because I know who they are and they aren’t, for the most part, dangerous. They’re building businesses and brands, and that process is annoying to watch, but it’s not dangerous, and I can pass over it.

My personal philosophy.

See? There’s a listicle with at least a thousand awesome items on it. I am life-hacking so hard right now.

Also, bad with numbers.

Truth to tell, the most annoying part of my feed is that Jules always gets there first. She’s in a different time zone than I am, and whenever I sign on she’s already been zooming around finding cool stuff before I can get to it. It makes me look like a right twat when I come and basically have an instinct to copy and paste what she has to say about your story. That’s why youse guys don’t hear from my too much, at least in part. It’s often, but not always, because Jules said what I was going to say.

You can usually think of her comments as comments squared, her recommends as two, because I usually agree.

Anywayses, I scratched these musings with Denise on the mind, because she’s one of the things I had already pegged as a clue in the mystery, “Is Medium changing for the worse? Results pending investigation.” And I also had ol’ Doc in mind, because she’s a good fighter. Gutbloom too, because he’s sort of everything that’s right about Medium.

I’m also thinking about Abbie, because she’s what’s right about Medium tomorrow, and I’m thinking about Michelle, because she’s always been one of my favorite quiets around here. She’s got a keen eye, and I already empathized with her. I always imagined she’d be the kind of person who I’d gravitate to in the big party, and we’d sit in the corner, sipping mimosas, and saying nothing to each other for hours while loving the companionable sniggering and snorting at the silliness. She doesn’t comment often, but she’s often highlighting the bits that I’m most eager to know resonated.

I’m thinking about Tom, because if you want to know how to “game the system” with integrity and honor, he’s the face for it. And I’m thinking about elizabeth, because she has a hard fucking job and she does it with a lot of grace.

I’m thinking about Todd, because he sees magic. And I’m thinking about H., because I like her stories. And I’m thinking about Tremaine, because she makes good pictures, and Ezinne, because her passion frightens me but I’m glad it’s there.

I am thinking about Olan and Wil, because it’s amazing that I can send them letters.

I am thinking about Kim, Aura, Kindra, Caitlyn,, Gerard, Mark, Jason, David, and BHD, because I really want to have a barbecue/karaoke night with those rousers, and I wouldn’t have met them without I was writing here. And I’m thinking about Charles, who I want to go plan “modified anarchy” with over microbrews with my friends Will and Cydney. And I want to invite J. C. and tigger and Zac to a poetry slam, because maybe they could explain the fucking appeal to me. And my witches, Colette, Sherry, and Jules. And one of my sunshine sprites, Ayesha.

Amy too. She’s secretly especially special to me, but the story is boring.

Look? Look how many connections I’ve made. And that’s hardly all of them. That’s, what, twenty out of at least a zillion — I’m crap with numbers, so I might be a little off with some of these. They could be stronger connections. I hope that they will be some day. They could be more “real,” whatever that means.

They’re all true and present and in my life, and they all out-noise the annoyances in the world, by a long-length they do.

My blessing upon you this day: may your scratchings continue.

Hoping this finds you how it’s leaving me: peckish, but not uncomfortable.


— Oliver

p.s. Currently accepting applications for new “real life” friends. I’ll give you my phone number, after a good, long application process that will mostly consist of exchanging witticisms.

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The best part of being a mime is never having to say I’m sorry.

The best part of being a mime is never having to say I’m sorry.