July 20, 2014 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
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:
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.