On Getting the #Binders Bump


July 20, 2014 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

Women Boxing on a Roof, circa 1930s. Courtesy HistoryPics

Women Boxing on a Roof, circa 1930s. Courtesy HistoryPics

Most of the writing I do on this blog is not controversial. Last week was an exception.

Last week I wrote a post about the #binders hashtag on Twitter, and the Facebook group it referred to, Binders Full of Women Writers, and its Fight Club rule. I thought it might get some discussion. What I didn’t expect was for it to be the most popular post I have had since I began blogging. OK, perhaps popular is not the right word. The most visited post.

Nor did I expect at least a third of those visitors to come from Facebook. I seldom, if ever, get traffic from Facebook. Most of what I do there, as my Social Practice page indicates, involves checking in with family and friends. I post blog entries weekly on Facebook, as I post to the other social media sites I have a presence on. And I make the post public so that it can be followed in a news feed. Given the mysterious new algorithm so many have complained about, I don’t have high expectations in that regard.

I am on Twitter, however, precisely to meet other writers, and to share my own writing.

As long as the content is interesting and I am sharing the work of others and interacting with them more than I am flogging my own posts, I feel comfortable with how I use the platform. I try not to let it use me. On the whole it seems like a more level – and open – playing field. To date – except for the week I was Freshly Pressed – #MondayBlogs and #wwwblogs have provided most of my blog traffic.

If you are not familiar with Freshly Pressed, it is a curated page on Word Press that highlights editors’ picks and favorite reads on that blogging platform. The post of mine that caught one editor’s attention, Puzzles, was about trying to come to terms with my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The week I was Freshly Pressed my blog had 308 visitors and 663 page views. Normally the numbers are about half that, though I’ve seen growth month over month. So yeah. An exciting week.

Summer has been slow, which I understand is characteristic of the season. Until last week, when my blog traffic went up 230%.

Of the 511 visitors to my blog and 743 page views I had the week of July 14, 380 visitors and 444 page views happened on Monday. Even with #MondayBlogs, it is usually not that lopsided. The number of Facebook referrals – 134 – was 2.5 times the number of Twitter referrals. Yet with the exception of one person, all the comments were from people I knew on Twitter. If people on Facebook were commenting, they were not doing so where I could see or respond. Unlike the week I was Freshly Pressed, very few people stayed to browse; they were just there for that story.

There could only be one reason for this. I had gotten the #Binders bump.

It was a very weird feeling for me, to know that people were reading what I wrote, possibly talking about it, and passing it along, all behind a private firewall. Some used the “do not link” frame, which is designed to allow people to discuss or alert others “to a website that promotes a fraud, scam, cult or other questionable business,” so that you don’t improve the offending site’s rank. Perhaps I should start a cult now, while the Internet is adequately prepared. Most of the links, however, were straight from Facebook.

I did receive one direct comment on the blog post from someone in the group, to which I responded. But for the most part, whatever discussion the post prompted was held without me.

The experience was at once heady and uncomfortable.

It made feel doubtful and defensive and just a little paranoid. As my hero Pema Chödrön might say, it brought out my juiciest neuroses.

As a storyteller, I am hyper aware of how details are selected to tell a particular story that makes sense to the narrator, but cannot by definition be “the whole truth.” There is point-of-view; there is perspective. I am certainly capable of being resentful and envious, and then trying to score points off of my own [self] righteous anger. I wouldn’t be the first person in the universe to mistake my own intention and communicate as much about myself and my own issues as I do about the issue I raise. Perhaps there is an undertone of this in my response to Binders. If so, I apologize to anyone who feels misrepresented.

But I do not think this negate the validity of my perspective, or the value of sharing it. And I still maintain that the best cure for inaccurate representation is transparency.

I will admit it was fun to see the post take off. But I write for insight, not to incite, and unless there is any additional insight to be had from an outsider, I won’t be doing so again. In many ways this has clarified for me why I am wholly unsuited to trying to “make it in the shitty world of publishing” – and why, in many respects, I prefer things that way.

After Vogue published Emily Greenhouse’s story, she tweeted it out once.

She did not use the “binders” hashtag, nor did she name the group specifically in the tweet. There were two responses: “This is… a weird way to show that you feel bad about this terrible misunderstanding,” and “Was it worth it?” There was also one share.

Vogue had the post on its own Facebook page. At one time.

For other posts there are comments; for this one, strangely, there are none. At least none that I can see.


However, when you go to look for the post now, it appears to be hidden. The timeline simply skips from June 25 to June 28:

Screenshot 2014-07-20 14.51.06

I’m sorry. This feels way too much like seventh grade.

But about those hashtags.

Knowing what I know now about the origin of the #binders and #binderwriters hashtags, do I continue to use them, or encourage others to do so? It seems to me to be appropriate if you are sharing content of interest to people who know what the hashtags mean. I certainly wouldn’t suggest anyone put it in their Twitter profile unless they were associated with a #binders group. I expect such groups will continue to proliferate. I hope someone publishes a manifesto. One all of us have access to.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to follow the Twitter lists I’ve subscribed to, because I expect to find good content there.

Which reminds me. Above the link to her Vogue article right now on Emily Greenhouse’s Twitter feed is a link to her recent article for Dissent Magazine on Ellen Willis, feminist, journalist, rock music and cultural critic – with whom I was completely unfamiliar. It is a fascinating piece, written with nuance, passion and commitment – unlike the ambivalent Binders story. You should read it. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Ellen Willis. Courtesy University of Minnesota Press

Ellen Willis. Courtesy University of Minnesota Press

18 thoughts on “On Getting the #Binders Bump

  1. I imagine it felt like everyone was talking about you, although not *really* about you, while you stood in their presence at a cocktail party. Yuck.


  2. lorilschafer says:

    Fascinating and eloquently worded follow-up. I’ll admit I’m curious as to whether you’ll experience a similar bump this week.


  3. Hi Paula. I missed your last week’s post, though I enjoyed reading your reactions – and shall certainly make a point to check it out, as well as googling those hashtags which I’ve not heard of before. It shows you never quite know what the reaction is going to be.
    I started blogging & social media to promote my, as then yet unfinished, novel, as I’d read this was the future for aspiring writers. I have to say, the unexpected delightful bonus has been meeting and discussing things with other writers like yourself. I guess the ups and downs of the journey are revealed as we travel!


  4. I nominated you for the “Very Inspirational Blogger Award”.
    You can find the post at cathyterranova.wordpress.com!
    Participation is not compulsory. :)


    • Hi, Cathy. Thanks for the nomination; I’m honored to be considered inspirational. I won’t be able to participate, however, as I am behind with completing the requirements of two other awards and a blog hop. I will, however, be sure to check out the other bloggers. Am glad to hear that greyhounds are allowed to retire and bookstore owners can have ridiculously handsome husbands. Just knowing this makes my world a better place.


      • They are allowed! They just need some rescuing right before the formal ceremony.
        And thanks! But I’m sure I may be one of the few bookstore owners with a husband as handsome as mine. ;)


  5. TuiSnider says:


    Recently, one of my posts was shared on a very popular site. That post got slammed for a couple days and still gets a few hits from their, but… all that traffic did not generate a single comment!

    It felt kinda odd. I followed it back to the page that linked to it and found that people were discussing my post *there* among themselves. If I hadn’t checked my stats, I never would have known.

    So – that’s one big reason I really enjoy #MondayBlogs & #WWWBlogs. When people share my posts, they often tweet me or drop by my blog and say hi. They let me in on the conversation, and that feels good! :)


    • Yes, I’m a big fan of open hashtags. ‘Bots are a bit of an annoyance, and I wish I had more time to read and comment on every post I retweet myself, but I try to do a reasonable percentage of them each week. I also wish I had more time to participate in chats like #storydam, but I do want to express gratitude to those like you and Morgan who coordinate such things.


  6. Lola Hemingway says:

    If you want to be in the group, just ask someone to invite you. The invitations are back and running. I don’t get why any of this is a big deal. If you are a writer, you’re allowed to participate.


    • That’s interesting to learn, Lola. The group still does not come up for me on a Facebook search, even as a closed group, and this is the first I’d heard the invitations were “back and running.” I will look on Twitter and see if that information is being freely circulated. If someone I know decides to invite me I will certainly consider it. I belong to a Storytellers group that has been useful to me. But right now I think I will probably stick to open groups. I will certainly tell the young journalist I work with who said she “missed the cutoff” that she has another opportunity.


  7. Ariel Bernstein says:

    Your blog definitely deserves traffic but I’m sorry it was over a post where the discussion left you feeling uncomfortable. Fwiw, I thought it was a very interesting & well- researched post and helpful as well since I had been misusing the #binders hashtag. It makes me think of how I’ve contemplated writing a post about the Gaza-Israeli war from the point of view of someone reading what Gazan and Israeli parents are feeling but the more I try to write something where both sides are equally talked about, the more I think it wouldn’t matter. I worry I would get unwanted traffic from people who think if you’re not 100% against one side then it means you’re 100% against the other side. I just read a post on scary mommy.com from the view of an Israeli mom & the comments are already nasty. I have a feeling the comments could be similarly nasty if it was written by an Palestinian mother. I don’t know if I’d have a thick enough skin for it.


    • Thank you, Ariel. I appreciate the compliment. Apparently the group is accepting new people now, according to the comment that came in before yours. As far as being thick skinned, on the whole I think it’s best not to do so if one can help it – we lose our capacity for empathy that way – and I prefer to avoid those situations. There are times one must speak out for the truth one sees, but picking your battles – and the environment in which they are held – is crucial. The internet is a notoriously difficult space to ensure civil conversation. That said, the issues I’ve raised with #binders are a cake walk compared to the topic you’ve been contemplating. If I were a young mother, I think I would focus my own efforts on raising compassionate children and being informed enough about current events to support those working for a genuine peace. Right now I’m only responsible for the latter, so you have my deepest respect.


  8. Lola Hemingway says:

    It is still private. The idea is that women are supposed to feel like they can safely discuss various gender issues at certain major publications in a safe environment without their male peers finding it. It’s not private to be exclusive from other women, but the Vogue article did make them temporarily put the moratorium up because they founders were literally inundated and have normal 9-5 jobs where they couldn’t wade through thousands of comments each hour.


    • Lola: That makes sense. Though a group can be closed and private and still be found in a search. This group has chosen, for whatever reason, to be not searchable. Perhaps it is not even intentional, just a setting that needs to be changed. Nobody’s comments would be any more discoverable if that were so, and there are many other smaller Binders groups that can be found in a search. (You can probably find it, being a member, but I cannot.) I will point out that the group was not capped and invitations stopped because of the Vogue article; it was capped after a week when it reached 22,000. The Vogue article created additional publicity, but it wasn’t the original reason invitations were closed down. I get having normal 9-5 jobs, and I get that it was not the intention to be exclusive. My main point was that being closed and invisible on Facebook while also having hashtag discussions on Twitter and then not explaining what they mean is bound to foster misunderstanding and make people feel left out. I’ve articulated that as best I can, and am happy to go back to talking about writing, creative process, and storytelling, and let Binders figure out their own best practices.

      On Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 11:10 PM, Paula Reed Nancarrow wrote:



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