First, I agree with you that writing has and always should be about the benefits we and our readers gain from doing this activity.
However, the issue of being sent to Curgatory™ is far more complicated than you realize (assuming you haven’t been on this site since 2015 like many of us grizzled veterans).
Back then the organization of Medium’s home page was the opposite of what it is now: 80% news feed, showing the work of EVERY writer you follow, and 20% featured stories chosen by Medium’s editors. Also, when you chose your favorite topics, you actually saw articles on those topics, instead of articles chosen by the editors “based on your reading history.”
In those days, there were still the social media stars who dominated the featured areas with their self-help gruel and tech-bro preening, and we complained about seeing more and more of that garbage crowd out the good stuff.
But if you wrote something really good that hit the nerve of the society at the right time, it was much easier to see an article go viral. Of course, there was no money involved until 2017, so the entire process was focused only on writing and being able to be shown the best stuff done by other writers.
In addition, the tyranny of “quality” writing was not imposed by Medium in the same way it is today, because there was no paywall. While Medium has the right to monetize its software, the for profit drive ends up creating a vicious self-sustaining cycle where the corporate heads decide which writing gives them the best chance of attracting new paid subscriptions, and then tailors its software to make great writers anonymous because they write on subjects that don’t coincide their agenda, while pushing more and more click bait crap that they hope will attract new subscribers.
Given the sensitivity of most writers, Medium’s curation policies are more a form of gaslighting.
For example, on Quora, I’ve been a top writer in tennis for the last couple of years, with over two million views and thousands of upvotes. I have fans telling me I should be the one writing for ESPN, or asking me when I’ll finish my book.
I decided to write a story about Rafael Nadal for Medium because there is so little tennis coverage.
And it got ignored, in spite of the fact that hundred of my fans came to Medium to read the article.
I don’t think Medium is personally out to get me, but I do feel that their stated goal of providing readers (they never add the qualifier “high”) quality is untrue.
Finally, the vast majority of subscribers to this site are people who want to write and who hope to make money through their writing.
Given the way we are bombarded by articles that screech “I made $11,000 last money by writing on line, and you can, too!” Medium has become the world’s largest repository of snake oil salesman selling get-rich-quick schemes to desperate people.
Just like Facebook and Twitter, Medium has become a social media game that affects people psychologically.