In January 2019, I declared that learning how to use Pinterest to actually get blog traffic would be one of my goals. In 2018, Pages Unbound had only received about 500 page views from Pinterest clicks, and I thought I could do better. I posted about my journey and various tricks and tips I learned throughout 2019, and by the end of the year, I concluded my experiment was a success: I had increased our page views from Pinterest by 1600% to over 8000. 2020 looks on track to be an even better year for us in terms of Pinterest (perhaps partially because lockdown measures mean people are spending more time at home online). In the middle of May, we already have roughly 7,000 page views from Pinterest.
Suffice to say, I am (finally) a believer that book blogs can get a significant amount of traffic from Pinterest, and I’ve been extolling the platform’s virtues for over a year because of it. In mid-May, our page views from Pinterest are, in fact, almost equal to our page views from the WordPress reader, which has always been our second-largest source of traffic after search engines. Pinterest can be powerful.
As I increase my reach on Pinterest, however, I’ve begun to notice the site can also be negative. While the bookish community–on blogs, Twitter, Bookstagram, etc.–tends to be overwhelmingly supportive and positive, Pinterest users outside of the community seem to feel more anonymous and empowered to post rude comments.
Receiving Negative Comments
In about the 10 days before I started drafting this post, I’ve received two explicitly rude comments on Pinterest. That’s not a lot–but it’s basically equal to the number of rude comments Krysta and I have received on our blog posts in NINE YEARS of blogging.
First, boomer jay decided that Krysta’s post talking about the women in Shakespeare’s work was a waste of time:
Then, Callie decided my pin about how all (ok, half) of the mothers in YA books are dead was “a piece of crap:”
I say she decided the pin was garbage, not the blog post, because it’s clear that neither boomer jay nor Callie clicked on the pin to read the actual post/content; they were being snarky purely based on the title of the pin. When I replied explaining the content of the posts, boomer jay of course did not answer because he simply does not care about women in literature. Callie sort of apologized.
I’ve also received snarky comments on other pins in the past. For example, one person was upset that one of my Lord of the Rings name generators asked readers to use the “first letter of their middle name” because “not everyone has a middle name.” Fair enough. Not everyone has a middle name, but it’s a silly fan-made name generator. One could just use their first name and move on, rather than leaving an aggrieved comment about it.
So why do people leave rude comments on Pinterest and not (usually) on my blog?
Why People Leave Negative Comments–Or Not
Callie’s original comment and her subsequent apology highlight one of the reasons commenters might be more negative on Pinterest: they don’t feel any particular connection to the person posting the content. “Who made this piece of crap?” is a bizarre question to ask when Callie could have easily seen that I (the Pages Unbound account) posted the pin AND the pin is linked to content on…the Pages Unbound web site. Perhaps she meant to address her comment to the world at large, but the actual recipient was me, the creator of the “piece of crap.” Either she didn’t realize this, or she simply didn’t care.
This may because Pinterest feels large and anonymous in the way the book blogosphere (or book Twitter or Bookstagram) does not. Pinterest seems to think of itself as a social media site, but most people don’t use it that way. Most people don’t “know” or routinely interact with other Pinterest users, so they may not seem fully human. This is in contract to the book blogging community, which can be tight-knit and which provides more opportunity for people to repeatedly interact and develop some sort of relationship. I know who the most active commenters on my blog are, and I assume they believe they know something about me and think of me as an actual person, not some faceless entity. (Though, to be fair, Krysta and I seem to be in the minority of book bloggers in that we literally do not post pictures of our faces!)
People might also feel more anonymous themselves on Pinterest than in the blogging community, and research suggests that anonymity is a key factor in cyberbullying. People who are fully anonymous are more likely to be mean online than people who have even just a username (something like PinkCupcakes12). People who use their actual names online and the least anonymous are the least likely to be mean online.
Pinterest users might use their actual name or a username, but either way there is still more anonymity there than on a blog since, as I mentioned, the site doesn’t really function as social media even when it wants to. I, frankly, have no idea who most Pinterest users are, and the web site doesn’t really make me want to know. This is in contrast to the blogosphere, where people know me and I know them. If I started going around commenting on other book blogs with things like, “Wow, this is a really stupid post” or “Your review is terrible,” word would get around. People would not like me and probably would stop following my blog. There’s some accountability to be civil in the blogosphere that doesn’t really exist on Pinterest.
Does the Negativity Matter?
Frankly, I laughed a bit when I saw the most recent negative comments I have received on Pinterest. I don’t know these people, and I don’t really care what they think–especially when they never actually read the posts they were being snarky about. I did reply them in hopes they might think harder in the future before leaving dismissive comments for other people. Who made this piece of crap? I made a point of replying that “I did,” so it would be clear that real people were seeing the comments, and they are NOT just directed to the world in general.
So I’m not particularly offended by the comments, but I do want to draw attention to this one possible downside of using Pinterest. Receiving these comments, particularly just a few days apart, reminded me of how positive the book blogging community really is, and I’m grateful for that now more than ever. This was just a stark reminder that not every corner of the Internet is positive, uplifting, or even just neutral. (I’m sure there are people who dislike my blog posts, but they very nicely close the page and don’t tell me about it!)
I’m still a big advocate for using Pinterest if you want to find ways to draw more traffic to your blog posts and expand your readership–but it comes with the caveat that not everyone in that potential new readership will be polite. I mostly try not to read comments on Pinterest, and I recommend that approach if you like to keep your days positive.