Is Medium Starting to Die?

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

I don’t typically do meta articles, but it’s worth asking about Medium’s future. At some point, every social media platform becomes passé. Facebook, the OG of social media platforms at this point, is moribund. But will Medium join the dustbin, like Friendster or MySpace or Vine, or just hobble along?

Instagram is being replaced by TikTok, as evidenced by all the contortions that Insta has made to resemble Tiktok. The latter will inevitably reach its peak and be replaced by something else. (Whatever happened to Snapchat?)

Why Do They Fade?

At some point, the number of users and the volume of material posted gets so high that it’s impossible to gain organic views, and the diminishing returns start to turn users off.

The volume can be exhausting. It’s hard to stay on top of your accounts on different platforms, including reading and commenting on the work of others.

If you were an early adopter, you had a chance to build a following. If you’re lucky, you have an audience that’s still engaged.

But even those accounts suffer. I always look at how much activity happens on a post, not the number of followers. It never ceases to amaze me how many people have tens or hundreds of thousands of followers, and very few likes, comments, or engagement. If you have 12,000 followers, and at most 10 people like one of your posts, those aren’t real followers.

That’s why Instagram now allows you to hide the number of people who like your posts so that you can mask how few followers engage with you.

Then there’s the toxic side — the need for people to spew venom, bile, and otherwise hateful material. Then come the hackers, who decide to copy accounts and trash people’s reputations.

That’s just on the users’ side.

On the platforms’ side, there’s the never-ending tweaking of algorithms. At one point, I noticed a huge drop-off in engagement with any post coming from my FB business page — unless I paid to “boost” it as an ad. Then, I noticed the massive uptick in ads purporting to teach me how to hack Facebook’s algorithm and get my page working again.

That’s my experience of Facebook’s business model in a nutshell: Make it hard to use, force you to buy ads, and watch as people post ads for their programs to teach you how to use Facebook ads.

Lastly, there’s the tendency to want something new or different. Generational shifts cause people to associate one platform with a group of people with whom they don’t want to connect — like finding your parents on Facebook. Similarly, people’s taste in media shifted as they moved away from pictures to short videos, hence the rise of TikTok.

Medium Is a Social Media Site

Sometimes I see stories here where people say they’ve left social media but are sticking with Medium.

Medium is a social media site. And the trends that have bedeviled most other sites are in full evidence here too.

Surely you’ve noticed the big drop in views as the site has grown. The sheer volume of writing means that each piece has a harder time getting seen. That leads to the algorithm, which favors pieces that get more attention and writers who post more often (usually with a distinct drop in quality as they churn out more and more).

That has generated so many articles on (1) how to make money, and (2) meta articles about writing on Medium. (I apologize for contributing to this second category.)

Along with those changes comes one of the worst trends of social media: follow-to-unfollow. I’ve noticed many more people who are following to get followers. If you don’t follow them back, they unfollow you. If you do follow them, they often still unfollow you. It’s an insidious technique.

Following someone without reading their work is not a mark of engagement. It’s cynical and treats people as transactions. If you’re following a lot of people without having written anything, then it’s fairly obvious you’re not interested in having people read your work.

I follow those whose work interests me. I clap for work that resonates with me, whether the writing is exciting, the arguments compelling or provocative, or because the author tapped into my emotions in an unexpected way.

But I don’t clap or comment out of obligation or so you’ll do the same for me. That all feels inauthentic and transactional — and it’s fairly obvious when a comment feels perfunctory rather than born of genuine interest.

Is Medium Dying?

I don’t think so, at least not yet. But it’s sure starting to show unhealthy signs that have plagued other social media sites. The new tipping feature is yet another red flag.

I’m grateful for the publications, the genuinely moving pieces amidst the countless vomit stream of articles on how to make money or go viral, and the articles that remind me that our attention spans don’t have to shrink online.

That could change, of course. It’s up to the community here. Do you follow to unfollow? Do you regurgitate the same piece over and over to game the algorithm? Do you engage genuinely or with a cynical, transactional mindset?

Each of us makes this site what it is with our choices.

Unlisted

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Patrick Paul Garlinger, Ph.D., J.D.

Patrick Paul Garlinger, Ph.D., J.D.

1.93K Followers

Former academic and lawyer, now an intuitive and spiritual writer. Passionate about time and our connection to all that is. My new book: https://amzn.to/3ScqPyW