I’m Suspicious of Certain Writers

Ten possible reasons why someone with thousands of followers on Medium follows no one else

Photo by Niloy Biswas on Unsplash

I once followed a copywriter on Twitter because I liked his articles (obviously) and he tweeted out links whenever he published them. I noticed that he had a ridiculously large following compared to the number of people he followed. One day, I shared one of his articles in my tweet, and mentioned his name. Nice, social thing to do on a social site, right?

Did he DM me? Respond? Say thanks? Mention me? Nope. I didn’t expect him to... But I also didn’t expect him to retweet my tweet and add the Twitter handle of one of his few Tweeps and comment — to him — about my tweet. Like it was some kind of personal joke or convo between them.

I felt used.

There are egos on Medium, too

Occasionally, I read something excellent on Medium and go to the profile page of the author to follow him or her. The lack of interaction from certain writers on Medium makes me wonder why they’re here at all. Sometimes it makes me worry about them a little.

I realize many good and popular writers have more followers than people they follow. If you’re a regular producer of content here, or on any social site, you know that many people are lurkers only. They follow others but produce no content themselves. There’s no need to get all worked up about following back or even reading their stuff. There’s nothing to read anyway.

But many times, the writer seems to be just a little high on his fans. They have their columns in their national magazines and websites, and they publish here on Medium, too. I understand wanting to increase one’s readership, but I don’t understand using a social site to get that.

Writers who don’t follow others also do not reply to comments, by the way.

If the writing is good I follow them anyway

I’d rather not miss something they wrote. I am an avid reader. If I really connect (albeit one-way) with an author, it’s usually worth the fangirl status to be one of their many.

But others give me pause. There’s no chance this person is ever going to follow me, it’s pretty obvious. I ask myself, is the writing good enough to be something I can’t miss, or will I find it among the topics I’m interested in anyway? I take those writers on a case-by-case basis. This IS a social site, after all.

A click is the beginning of a relationship on a social site

So what’s up with those “I only follow @mediumstaff” people? Should you save your follows for people who engage with their readers or should you give them the benefit of the doubt that there’s something else going on with them? Here are some guesses.

  1. They’re not managing their own account. They hire people to post stuff wherever.
  2. They don’t have time to read. Only write.
  3. They actually don’t like to read other people’s stuff. (As my favorite college professor said, “Poets generally don’t read the poetry of others.”)
  4. They came to Medium recently, and are super-famous already, and don’t have time or can’t figure out whom or how to follow.
  5. They’re actually too famous to follow other people, anyway. That would be weird for the ego.
  6. They‘re a little depressed and don’t feel like interacting with strangers.
  7. They forgot that this is a social site, and not a one-way content distribution medium.
  8. They think it increases their status to have thousands of followers and are following just one. Plus it has that clean, cool look on the profile page. (See image above.)
  9. They can’t find anyone worth following here.
  10. They’d really rather just publish their work in books or print magazines, but their recent article was turned down, or they didn’t want to go through the process of editing, etc. so they just plunked it here on Medium.

That’s really all I can think of. I’m sure there are other reasons someone would publish content on a social site and not be social, but they’re probably some variation of the reasons above; just worded differently.

He’s also a great writer. You should follow him, too. (He follows no one.) Screenshot by the author.

The reason I’m here on Medium is to read great writing I can’t find anywhere else. OR… to follow syndicated stories by popular magazines and newspapers that I don’t have to pay a subscription fee (beyond Medium’s), like The Atlantic and Wall Street Journal. And obviously to write and be read by others.

Another compelling reason is to connect with other writers and give/get feedback. The recent changes on Medium seem to want to encourage sociability between authors and readers. I wonder if there’s anything written into the algorithm to encourage an author who doesn’t follow anyone, to keep the door cracked a bit.

I do sometimes go to a writer’s comments to see what a convo might look like. Writers who don’t follow others also do not reply to comments, by the way.

As I was writing this article, I read another article by a friend of mine, David Majister, whose story was riffed on (but dissed) by another popular writer who shall remain nameless. One of David’s readers, Frankie Faunet asked, “Is it worth the click?” meaning, does this famous person even care about my readership?

I see I’m not the only one.

P.S. I thought of one more reason… #11. They’re actually Medium Staff. For them, none of the first ten reasons apply.

Curious mom, writer, & lymphatic massage therapist. I teach a persuasive writing course, too. Start here: https://www.jenmcgahan.com/power-words

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