Illustration by Jason Leung

When other Medium Partners follow you, consider following them, too.

I’ve noticed some people on Medium don’t follow others back. I guess I got it from using Twitter for so many years, but when people follow me I follow them back. It’s considered common courtesy on that platform. It doesn’t hurt or cost me anything and it increases my opportunities to discover great things others have contributed.

I feel the same way about Medium. I follow a lot of people — currently at least three times as many as follow me — but the majority don’t follow me back. It makes me feel like the ugly duckling surrounded by swans. Hey, what’s wrong with me? Why won’t you play with me? I kinda’ want to pout about it.

There are, I understand, superstars, famous authors and experts on Medium who don’t want to be bothered with my drivel. That, I understand. People who have earned ten-thousand followers don’t follow all of us back, of course. But I haven’t earned that status and most of the people who don’t follow me back haven’t either. I follow the top writers, the stars, because I enjoy and want to read their work. It’s my win. I’m not offended if those who have earned their fame don’t follow me back. I’m constantly learning from the top writers and they give me much more than a follow-back through their contributions.

I also enjoy finding writers and poets whose ability to string words together sparkles like diamonds and delights me. I often find those writers by following people with only a small number of followers or new members. There are lots of writers on the Medium platform who don’t write a lot, but what they do write is amazing. I feel so rewarded when I find one of those wordsmiths.

But what about those people who mainly just read and don’t write except maybe to respond, or only write a little, but don’t follow back once someone follows them? I don’t understand that anymore than I understand why people are stingy with claps. Back when claps related to how much one was paid, I’d see people give a story one clap, or maybe three or even five. What is that stinginess with claps about? Do people think clapping for others in any way minimizes their own work? I don’t get it.

I give at least 25 claps even if I didn’t truly agree with a writer’s premise but thought it was well-written. However, I almost never give 25 claps. I give 50. Big ole’ five-oh claps, loud and clear. I liked the story, I like the author, and I wish them well. Claps don’t cost anything and so far, I’ve never run out of them. So I almost always clap 50 times. Why not? Even now claps help stories get distributed. So I clap like a maniac. I love reading the work of others. Actually, I spend too much time reading and too little writing. But there is so much good stuff to read.

The exception to me giving 50 claps to stories I like is responses to my stories. I just bang a few claps up there so others can see the response. The response won’t show if I don’t clap for it. So, I just hit the clapper (heh heh) a few times because the writer isn’t going to get paid anything for the response anyway. I don’t know why I don’t just do 50 claps on those, too, because I’m always thrilled when someone comments on one of my stories. Maybe I’ll start doing that, because I love partners who not only read my stories, but take the time to respond to them.

I read Brian Rowe (ugh, I can’t figure out how to imbed links yet) and others here to learn that it is advantageous to follow several people per day so that one can build up one’s following and be subjected to all sorts of content. Obviously that doesn’t always work. There are stingy clappers, and people who don’t follow anyone back. Why? We do best here when we help each other.

Anyway I know the type of Medium member I want to follow. The first reason I will follow someone is because I love their writing and I want to read more of it. The second reason is to interact with other writers and readers and, yes, I hope they will follow me back to add to my following. Many of the members who are mainly readers may not write their own pieces, but I’ve noticed they often respond to pieces posted by others. That feedback is priceless. But frankly, if I see someone who has 89 followers, but only follows 3, I know that person is not going to follow me back. I stopped wasting my time following those type people unless they are famous superstars and their writing is spectacular.

Many don’t even write, or write very little. But if I see they are following others and not just gathering followers, I follow them and hope they will be interested enough to check out my work, too. My biggest hope is that they will respond. We all crave feedback. I try to check out the stories of everyone who follows me and I often respond, or at least highlight the good stuff.

I’m no longer following people whose profile numbers illustrate they do not follow others back. The exception is when their writing is so good and so important to me that I don’t even expect them to follow me — I just feel fortunate to be able to read their work.

How can I see who is not following me back? I haven’t figured that out yet. I only know there are a lot by my numbers. There are some I don’t need to follow, because they aren’t writing or responding and if they aren’t following me back, I’d like to quietly end our relationship with one little click. I never was content to stay in one-sided relationships.

Here’s a hint: If you’re on Medium and you want to build followers and you’re waiting for them to miraculously find and follow you, it’s a bad idea. When people do find and follow you and then you will not return the favor they may unfollow you. People even as thick-headed as me are onto you. I’m grinning as I say that and saying it lightly. Don’t be offended! I understand it’s your business who you follow, but I’m going to be more discerning about who I pick to follow as I work to build my base of potential readers and responders.

Thanks for reading.


Former print journalist, former mayor, retired law enforcement officer. Writing about politics and government along with random personal essays.

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