Fake it until you make it.

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Medium is a…place on the internet devoted to the idea that the “sharing of ideas and experiences is what moves humanity forward“. From this provocative and controversial stake in the ground they’ve launched a publishing platform via the internet, “The Greatest Idea Sharing Tool Ever Imagined.” But instead of using TGISTEI to swap pictures of cats or leak celebrity sex videos, they want to harness it to share high quality ideas. It is a mission statement with a capital E for earnest. 

So what does it mean in practice?

It means pieces that start off like this: “This weekend I officially joined the future: I got a flat-screen TV.” And continues in the exact same vein. Over a few paragraphs you learn that she has parents, a boyfriend, and a place to put that TV. And then the denouement, reproduced in its thrilling entirety here:

Here’s one small way in which my life has already changed: A few years ago, the networks gave up on trying to make their sports game scores readable on standard-definition TVs, so I haven’t been able to tell if the Knicks are winning, 16-13, or losing, 18-75. Now, I can see the score — and the ball! — without squinting or walking up to the screen.

Sigh.

Way to really stretch out TGISTEI! It doesn’t really matter that the post was banal- most of the internet is. Most of the world is. That is what the word means after all. Not everything is a winner, some things are nicely written fluff. And I’m certainly not calling out the author of the piece – it was fine. It just shouldn’t run on a site that brags about its ability to curate only things that “earn” your attention. 

The site privileges design over content, and thinks you can run a publishing house without strong, literate, editors. For every piece that benefits from this philosophy many, many more suffer and you wonder why they hit “publish.”  My sense is that Medium is aiming at a New Sincerity type of platform, where instead of issuing link-baiting reactionary pieces they want to give you instead a minimalist selection of pieces to Care About. 

This is noble effort and works really well on pieces like this one about Pedro the Lion. But is less successful at other times. This post about Sports in Age of Twitter raised a lot of points without really resolving any of them. 

It seems like the kind of site that would do well to publish Lydia Davis, and be sternly edited by Gordon Lish (wouldn’t we all, like Raymond Carver, wish to be edited by Mr. Lish). Instead it runs writers and personalities that are internet famous and so compounds the original sins that it is set up to avoid. And so you get, in the purest of internet style, one idea stretched to the breaking point over seven hundred or so words. A quick read then on to the next. Which is just like how the rest of the internet works. So much for utilizing TGISTEI.  

And maybe, if the pieces don’t strike you as vehicles to move humanity forward, well maybe it’s because you’re (I’m) too comfortable in your glass house of ironic detachment. 

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