Keep Calm and Pinterest On
Brides, fancy homes, pies
Mmm Shirtless Ryan Gosling
Pinning is winning
Five minutes before I needed to leave, I finished styling my hair and stepped into my roommate’s room for her final approval of my clothes, boots, etc. She paused the show she was watching on her laptop to take in my entire look, smiling approvingly as she said, “I’d pin that!” This time a year ago, I might have blushed in confusion or embarrassment at the innuendo that “I’d pin that!” suggests. But, that day in December, I laughed unashamed and confidently headed out for the evening knowing she had given me the utmost of compliments.
Thirty minutes later I arrived in Cambridge, acceptably late for a gathering at the home of four women in their mid-20s. I slipped between a group of guys talking to pour a glass of wine unintentionally stepping into a man-to-man and truly laughable conversation.
Sincere Guy: Pinterest? What is Pinterest?
Jerk Guy: Haven’t you heard? It’s the internet for women. (I bitterly ignored this comment and him)
Married Guy: Yeah, it is like a picture blog of wedding stuff and cookie recipes.
In that moment, it occurred to me that these men were completely oblivious to the specifics of a social media phenomenon that is so much a part of the day-to-day for nearly all the women in our circle of friends, as integral as Twitter and Facebook. To these men, Pinterest was an elusive femme social website that did not affect their lives. I locked eyes with one of my girlfriends across the table also listening. She let out a sigh as she rolled her eyes, a wordless acceptance that she would help me enlighten them.
Only a subway stop from the birthplace of Facebook, we fielded questions from these men about the site. We explained that Pinterest had inspired this party’s theme, the appetizers, the container that was chilling the beer, the sock bun hairstyle effortlessly worn by a female guest, and even the color of the living room walls. The rest of the evening, I subtly pointed out artsy fixtures such as inspirational quotes painted on old pages of books and homemade pillows as having Pinterest origin. Each time, the guys chuckled in acknowledgement that they were unwittingly surrounded by the long arm of Pinterest’s influence.
I first heard of Pinterest in July of 2011 but did not visit the site much until the fall. Even then it took me a good couple of months to pin its relevance in my life. Now, I visit the site more days than not for “pinspiration” on what to wear, cook, create, or to fill a spare 15 minutes. However, do not let my frequent pinner status fool you; I definitely have some qualms with the site.
For starters, there is no hiding that Pinterest is oft a place where single women plan “future” opulent weddings, decorate unrealistic homes, and long for sexy bodies not physically achievable. Essentially, the site is prone to encouraging its users to be materialistic and shallow, obsessing over an ideal fantasy life. Raising the question: Does the “pin” in Pinterest really stand for pinning or pining?
Additionally, I wonder if Pinterest is a carrier of what Daniel Strait, in his piece from July 10th, calls “the plague of middle class… a condition of having more than is necessary to meet any actual needs while denying the consequences of wanting more than enough.” I believe Pinterest by its nature fosters what Strait refers to as “a realm of fantastical freedom where all needs (and many wants) are met, and yet there is still freedom to chase after more without the disapproval of peers.” The site in many respects is a community for peer approval of the perpetual wanting more sentiment promoting “gluttony, greed, pride, and excess.” All this at what cost? The site is free but so is the depression and self-hatred that can come with this kind of mindset.
Another complaint about Pinterest that usually causes me to cringe and sometimes laugh is the regular trafficking of man-hating posts that give the site an angry cat-lady feminist vibe. But, not to worry, all the hating is done in flowery fonts over kitschy pictures. The Buzzfeed’s 125 Reason Why Guys are Afraid of Pintrest captures the anti-male sentiment well.
I know. For someone who pins almost every day I am awfully critical. The reality is that there is plenty about Pinterest that I do enjoy and believe to be quality. Pinterest’s mission statement is “to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.” A writer from the Slate calls it scratching “the itch of anyone visually minded who wants to collect evocative images for various purposes and share them with like-minded folks.” I support both these intentions. Anushay Hossain, contributing writer for Forbes and fellow pinner, describes Pinterest as “a place to organize your dreams in addition to just organizing your daily life… It makes me more focused on my goals. I actually find it a great way to de-stress. Pinterest increases my drive and makes me more ambitious to a degree. A visual collection of to-do lists! What is not to love?” I believe this best describes my experience and my hopes for the Pinterest community as a whole.
It is easy to criticize Pinterest because it so vividly broadcasts the insecurities of its most faithful pinners, women. The perfect outfit, vintage bicycle, or to-die-for blueberry cobbler recipe ultimately make no one a better, happier person. Unless your deepest unfulfilled desire is to know how to make a low calorie margarita, Pinterest will not satisfy. Take Pinterest for what it is meant to be and you will be able to joyfully share with all your friends the most visually appealing crafty project to-do list and/or recipe board of your life. To those readers still not sure about Pinterest or uncertain if it is something worth exploring, I leave you with the words of Salon writer Farhad Manjoo “Cupcakes, Boots, and Shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal: If you like any of those things, you should be on Pinterest.”