If you’ve ever found any value from anything I have ever written on Medium, I would preface this article with a request to follow me on Twitter @Chris_herd
I’ve migrated much of my interactions there because I‘ve grown increasingly wary of Medium as a platform for discussion and the advance of ideas and topic that I support, believe and get behind.
I really don’t understand where this needless adversarial criticality has emerged from or why it’s a necessary component of any discussion online. Each word written isn’t a challenge to your ego, it is an invitation to share knowledge and join in with a conversation the writer is trying to cultivate with their audience. That was my idealistic view, to begin with anyway.
The world is a far better place when we ask questions and share rather than asserting our beliefs as fact or withholding our knowledge. Medium used to be a space where one could explore concepts which fascinate us but slowly it has deteriorated like any great forum to become an echo chamber of critique and negativity. My propensity to share unconstrained has spanned some 800 pieces, not including those shared via the partner program, and from them have grown some of the most interesting opportunities in my life. I’ve been thankful for the exposure the platform has endowed me with and the truly interesting people I have grown close to over time.
But, insidiously the disease has festered. Frequently I catch myself holding back and restricting the boldness of the words I share. Having grown used to the ignorance that finds its way to the reactions of my posts, I protect myself by holding back. Instead of testing ideas, getting feedback, cultivating and improving them to share again, I have become precious and worried about the reaction to my ideas, imagination, and experiences.
Not just that, but it manifests itself as a reluctance to expose the aspects of my life people found most interesting. Some of my most popular pieces have grown from my life experiences and allowing that to become a conduit for discussion. That it helped other people became a point of massive pride. Recently though, I questioned why I should expose previous fragilities for the benefit of others. Vulnerability is a huge part of writing and there comes a time where the rewards don’t equate to the investment of time, energy and emotions it takes to organize the words to share your message cohesively.
Increasingly, I feel more comfortable in private. Sharing those ideas which dominate my waking hours with a select few I have grown to trust, exposing me to the cognitive dissonance, confirmation biases and insularity I fought so hard to avoid. Diversity of opinion is something I have treasured and I have always admired those willing to debate vigorously the merits of their ideas or my own. Where I’ve continuously maintained that I’d rather talk to ten people I disagreed with but respected than participate in the homogenous echo chamber that typically emerges, my interactions online have made me question whether that, while being true, is possible.
The internet is such a detached and unemotional place human connections are increasingly problematic. We say things to people online we wouldn’t say to our worst enemies face. Empathy evaporates at the touch of a keyboard as does understanding and acceptance. Everything is consumed through the lens of competition and any concept of mutual appreciation dilutes to likes on photos or posts. Instead of consciously considering measured responses, we have allowed those who shout loudest to dictated the rules of engagement.
There is a great piece of research I read recently about consensus being achieved by minorities. It only takes a vocal 10% to influence the remaining 90% because their acquiescence comes from their silence. They might not agree but they erroneously assume that the silence of everyone else means they agree. The truth is the remaining 90% typically don’t agree, they just aren’t as passionate as the outspoken 10% whose outrage carries undue influence with everyone else. That’s why we often end up with unpopular decisions nobody agrees with — its human nature.
It’s times like this I return to the thought that we’re not as bad as the worst things that are said about us and we’re not as good as the best things. It’s easy to be harsh and bring people down but it takes a special kind of person to reach out a hand and pull someone up. It might make us feel better to look down on others and questions what they have created, but that is cowardly while the act of writing or creating is brave.
Right now I don’t know if I want to write here anymore. I’ve got a draft folder overflowing with some of my boldest ideas, projections, imaginings, and experiences.
I just don’t know if I want to share them.
And that’s sad.