If I Unfollow You, It’s Nothing Personal

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I just need to find other kinds of stories.

It’s just that I have to take a break. An algorithm seems to be limiting the potential breadth of my reading material. Let’s say I choose to read one more story by someone who writes about, for example: the difficulties of being obese and/or being a single mom, about how to have better sex, or why s/he gave up masturbation for Lent or Ramadan

That’s the kind of stories I will get. More and more and more of the same.

Right now, I need to know what else is here for me. To find out, it seems, “Based on your reading history” has got to change.

There’s an obvious reason the stories mentioned above are so popular: Many people who’ve discovered Medium realize that it’s an awesome group therapy couch. Why go to a therapist’s office to get one person’s point of view — a person you may not always agree with — when you can share your story here and get hundreds of points of view from all over the world? Input from real people who may not have a Ph.D., but who’ve experienced the very same issue and are somewhere along the path with it. They may be learning how to deal with it, healing from it, or already out of its grip. And this therapy is free. And super-convenient. You can take what you like and leave the rest — with your phone, from your very own bed.

I bet if I dig deeper here, I can get to the stuff that really hurts, like understanding the reasons for self-harm. Hanya Yanagihara tried to do it in her epic novel, A Little Life. But even after absorbing the horrific events in the main character’s background, I still can’t understand how and why a successful law partner would cut himself to the point of making himself disabled. Or, put another way, how a man who cuts himself like that could function as a law partner. So if I ever have the urge to cut myself, I know there will be people on Medium who’ve been there and whose writing could speak to me and help me. (Oh, why did I choose that example?) And that support will be here for almost every other issue or syndrome or disease.

Before there was Facebook, there was Tribe.com. It was a cool place where people with varied interests could share their experiences and advice on all kinds of things, from making music to pain management. Like a lot of other things, it was replaced by a newer and much shinier object. Everybody I knew was on Tribe. As soon as Facebook appeared, they switched.

When I discovered Medium (why did it take so long ?) I thought, Ah, an Instagram for writers. The place to post your words, not your pictures, and get likes and comments and followers. With an important difference: You can make money here. That’s why so many of us are obsessive about it. Checking those stats several times a day. How many highlights, how many fans, how many claps? The claps are it, right?

On Instagram, if you think of yourself as too fat and un-beautiful, you will never have as many followers as a Kardashian. On Medium, you can get thousands of followers, and if what some people claim is true, you can make enough money to support yourself on your writing earnings. Wow! Amazing! Brava! Congratulations! I write those words in all seriousness. Thank you for the opportunity.

Yes, I write for real publications about design and illustration and photography and advertising. Yes, it’s cool, and I interview smart, fascinating people, but I have to stick to assigned subjects and word counts and contracted-for editorial schedules.

Here, I can write about whatever I want, whenever I want.

And get comments and reactions right away. And keep making edits, if I think of something new to add or something stupid to delete. Pardon me for being naïve, but that’s fucking awesome.

But I’m still looking for my sweet spot.

My story that got the most appreciations so far is “Getting Old Doesn’t Have to Suck.”

So maybe that should be my sweet spot: Looking back at stages of life that many readers are beginning to experience and giving them the benefit of my experiences. But do I have to stick to that? Really? So boring. That’s not what I came here for. Hmm. Here are some other stories I’m thinking about writing. But first, I’ll search for the same or similar topics to see what others have contributed. I don’t want to infringe on territory another writer has staked out:

Medical Freakonomics: I just had a mammogram and ultrasound. The facility billed the insurance company moe than $3500. The insurance paid them $257.50. I had a $20 co-pay. What kind of crazy system have we here in America?

Modern Photography: I own expensive cameras and lenses and only reach for my iPhone.

Making Music: The difference between improvisation and soloing.

Homophones Make Me Crazy: if I read one more story in which the writer mixes up ‘peak’ and ‘peek’ and ‘aisle’ and ‘isle,’ I’ll scream.

Body Scan: From the bottoms of my feet to the top of my head, there’s always someone ready to fix or improve a part of me.

Colonoscopy Prep: Don’t let me commence, ever again. But if I have to, please schedule a home visit by the people who specializing in cleaning up after natural disasters.

Wealth Managers: You can learn to be an investor and make money, even after years of being brainwashed by ‘professionals’ who intimidated you into leaving the choices to them.

Shall I get to work on these? Or should I stick to “Getting Old Doesn’t Have to Suck”-style topics?

In the meantime, I will change my reading history to see what others have to say on those subjects.

So if I’m not reading you right now, forgive me. Remember that I still love you, but have to play the field right now.

My career is designing and writing about design. Here, I can write about lots of things. My short fiction attempts to capture and evoke past moments in time.

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