As part of my recruiting efforts, I once described Pinterest to a friend of mine as a visual way to bookmark one’s favorite websites. Because I just like to look at the pictures. I’ve since heard it described as virtual hoarding. Whatever it is, it is popular, particularly among women. It was completely underestimated by predominantly male tech industry, quickly becoming the third most popular social media platform. And it makes me crazy.

I love it. And I hate it. I am both ambivalent and conflicted about it.

This is my brain on Pinterest:

I find the following WAY overdone:
salted caramel
cheesecake everything
red velvet anything

Things of which I am tired and so over long before they even got started:
any upcoming holiday
chevrons
ombre

Additional thoughts:

The snarky side of me desperately wants to create a “This is NOT cute” board, a “This is NOT true” board and also an “In what universe is this a GOOD idea?” board. But I don’t want to encourage any more nonsense by repinning terribly bad pins.

If it’s just a photo of pretty food or it is an actual recipe whose staple ingredient is a cake mix or a can of cream of something soup, I’m not interested.

Note to my daughter: No amount of my ingredients for Carina’s fabulous coconut cream pie will ever make your hair grow faster. (So please quit using them for hair treatments so we can save them for pie.)

Ryan Gosling is not going to Hey Girl any one of us, and that’s really OK.

Condescending Wonka amuses me. Apparently being amused by Condescending Wonka is controversial, which amuses me even more.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, especially when it comes to upcycling plastic grocery bags or crafting with used toilet paper rolls.

You should, however, totally check out my kilt board.

And pallets, who knew?

On the serious side, as I said, I find Pinterest conflicting. Aside from tole-painting like nobody’s business during the late 80s and the occasional quilt, I am the anti-craft. And yet even I have my own crafts board. I also have a workout board (18 pins). And a dessert board (56 pins). All too often a random glance at “everything” displays an odd juxtaposition of quinoa-laced health-food and an almost sick (yet somehow appealing) decadence such as a recipe for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie n’ oreo fudge brownie bar (don’t forget to top it with ice cream and hot fudge sauce).

What is perplexing to me is what this says about us. What it says about what’s on our minds and what we want.

Why is my workout board so wimpy? In part because I take issue with so many of the images and messages I see on the fitness pins. While fabulous abs abound, a good number of the women (girls, really) are impossibly thin. Much of the exercise advice isn’t sound. And a lot of the messages are more demeaning than inspiring. As the mother of a teen who has Pinterest account, I’m concerned about the messages these pins send our girls. Not just about their own body images, but about our bodies in general. Interesting that so much in the name of being healthy is so, well, unhealthy.

Organizing or hoarding?

On a good day I’ll try a recipe or cleaning tip or two (word to the rise, not all of those are scientifically sound, either). One of these days I might make a new quilt.

On a bad day, as I look at the pictures and contemplate the underlying messages of so many posters, I am sometimes unsettled by a sense of not enoughness. Similar to that I occasionally feel when flipping through the glossy pages of some magazines. The prevailing message seems to be “Not only am I not enough, but neither is my house, my parenting (or cooking) skills, nor my linens.”

Moral of the story? Just like with everything else, it’s about balance. There is good. There is not-so-good. The wisdom is in knowing the difference. I’m still figuring it out. In the meantime, just like Facebook once saved my turtle (prior post), Pinterest has already saved my favorite sauce pan, ruined my newly refinished dining room table, and taught my 16yo how to make something new (homemade calzone) for dinner one night.

What is your brain like on Pinterest? Tried any good recipes lately? Learned the hard way not to believe everything you see?

31 Comments

  1. Michelle

    May 29, 2012

    “Why is my workout board is so wimpy? In part because I take issue with so many of the images and messages I see on the fitness pins. While fabulous abs abound, a good number of the women (girls, really) are impossibly thin. Much of the exercise advice isn’t sound. And a lot of the messages are more demeaning than inspiring. As the mother of a teen who has Pinterest account, I’m concerned about the messages these pins send our girls. Not just about their own body images, but about our bodies in general. Interesting that so much in the name of being healthy is so, well, unhealthy.”

    I refuse to repin any Thinspiration or Fitspiration stuff for this reason.

    Strangely, I haven’t felt ‘not enough’ from Pinterest, although I can see how that could happen. But I use it differently than most people do, I think.

  2. Leah

    May 29, 2012

    I really like Pinterest and use it a lot. I’ve never felt the sense of “not enoughness.” There’s plenty on there that doesn’t appeal to me, but I just remind myself that as much as I love the idea of not being like everyone else, some people need and want to be like everyone else. I used to save recipes to my computer with the best intentions and then never look at them again. I didn’t realize how very visual I am until I started using it. I try to cook from one pinned recipe a week. I also have a blend of healthy recipes and heart-attack food – because that’s how we eat. I think that’s how most people eat – it’s not a contradiction, that’s life. I’ve found useful information that I’ve actually utilized like organizing ideas, meal planning, and DIY tips. When I pin photos of beautiful homes, it’s for inspiration and it never makes me feel bad. My hubs and I are avid DIYers and love looking at beautiful interiors, exteriors, and gardens. We’re realistic about what will and won’t work for us.

  3. The One True Sue

    May 29, 2012

    I really only started using Pinterest a couple of weeks ago. I enjoy it. I feel like it’s the equivalent of flipping through a magazine and saying, “ooh, I like that!” or window shopping with friends. I like that it’s social, but that its value doesn’t depend upon how many followers you have. I also like that there is no time commitment involved – you don’t have to comment.

    I think I use it a lot like Leah – I have a board full of healthy recipes, and I’ve cooked from it several times already. I have boards full of fun stuff for kids to do, and a board with cleaning/organization/DIY tips. I’ve used a lot of the cleaning tips, and my husband has been on a furniture painting kick for the last few days, thanks to Pinterest. Like Lori said – I guess we are more visual than we thought we were because unlike bookmarks (out of sight out of mind), we seem to be actually executing on a lot of our pins.

    I also have a style board that has been surprisingly helpful for me. I’m not super stylish, and when I go to the store I never really go with any particular intention and have no idea how to put an outfit together. With Pinterest (thank you polyvore), it’s been a lot easier for me to find outfits I think are cute, pin them, then try to recreate them at Marshalls or TJ Maxx 😉 In fact, right now I’m sitting at work in an outfit straight from one of my pins that cost me about $20 but is making me feel pretty dang stylish (red cardigan, black and white striped tank, skinny jeans, long necklace ftw).

    I know there could be the potential to let all of the pictures of beautiful homes and people make me feel bad, but – that hasn’t happened so far. I have a pretty good filter and I don’t pin stuff that feels unrealistic to me.

    PS: Don’t make indoor pallet furniture. Apparently they’ve found that pallets are toxic. I was super bummed to find that out. BOO.

  4. The One True Sue

    May 29, 2012

    Holy cow. I had a LOT to say about that. Embarrassing.

  5. Tiffany W.

    May 29, 2012

    I’m a holdout from pinterest. Not because I have something against the site or its users. On the contrary. I just know myself. I get so sucked into wasting time that I would sit for hours pinning and NEVER do anything.

    And I would rather be a doer than a pinner.

  6. Tiffany W.

    May 29, 2012

    And by my last statement I do not mean to imply that people who use pinterest aren’t doers, just that I would become a pinner and not a doer. Just a personal weakness.

  7. KDA

    May 29, 2012

    I’m not very visual, so pinterest is very counter-intuitive for me. I have an account, but I keep wanting to pin text-heavy / idea-heavy things, and that just doesn’t work. I often get really frustrated trying to interacat with the site. Also I feel like I’m coveting, and then I’m full of self-loathing mode for all that I don’t have.

    But then I can see how very visual people would value it and not let it drown them. (In order to process images, I have to narrate them in great detail, so then my mind is full of chatter.) I’m more of a Goodreads gal and a blogger: words, words, words.

  8. Rosemary

    May 29, 2012

    I follow Pinterest and enjoy it. At first, I was pulled in – anxious to see everything there. However, after a couple of weeks, I found my interest settled in to a more realistic mode. I check a few times a week, pin a few things, and just enjoy looking for a few minutes – not much time, not out of control.

    One thing I have done several times, and I think it is a great advantage to the board, is to look for something specific. It might be a recipe for a particular ingredient or a craft for a holiday or using a specific item, or really anything. I just go to the Everything board and get specific on my search. It is like having a huge inventory of ideas right at my fingertips.

    Like anything, pinning can be good or bad, useful or wasteful. I enjoy it and am glad that I don’t feel tempted to waste much time at it – at least since the first few weeks!

  9. dalene

    May 29, 2012

    Michelle–I am interested to know how you use it. I would like to know how to use it more efficiently.

    Leah–I should clarify. I typically have way more good days than bad days, appreciating the useful information as well. I am concerned, however, when I see people repinning incorrect information like mad. That’s cool you try a new recipe weekly. I have a friend who goes back and reviews those she’s tried, which I find very helpful when it comes to repinning.

    The One True Sue–I agree that pinning is WAY more effective than bookmarking, which is why I signed on. I love that you actually use your style board. And thanks for the warning about pallets (although I’m SO disappointed!). p.s. I love that you had a LOT to say!

    Tiffany W.–I get the sense there are a lot of pinners, not doers. I do some. But I pin more. Which probably doesn’t help me feel any less conflicted.

    KDA–While I am more visual, I hear you on the the difficulties of pinning word and idea-heavy things. I sometimes find myself trying to pin an interesting article I’ve read about something I find though-provoking so I can go back and mull over it, but it doesn’t work so well on an image-driven platform.

    Rosemary–What an excellent idea, particularly looking for recipes using a specific ingredient. I’m going to try that. Thank you.

  10. KR

    May 29, 2012

    I stay off Pinterest unless I have something specific to look for – like if I want an idea for dinner. Otherwise I get the same feeling of not enoughness. That is probably why I don’t buy magazines either, but I occasionally go to the websites of certain magazines if I feel like they will have articles or ideas relevant to me.

  11. Kirsten

    May 29, 2012

    I LOVE pinterest. I’ve used it to replace my giant folders of torn out magazine articles and pictures entitled that I called inspiration and my hubby called a fire hazard. That being said, I do have a board that is entitled “Stuff I Don’t Get”, on which I pin things that I don’t understand why anyone would pin in the first place. Is that wrong?

  12. cindy baldwin

    May 29, 2012

    I started Pinterest a few weeks before it went viral. I’d heard almost nothing about it except that it was a good resource for crafts, that it was “so addicting,” and that it made people feel inadequate about their lives.

    For a long time, those last two comments kept me away from it, but eventually I decided to check it out. Because those three things were literally all I had ever heard about it (since this was before the name was on everyone’s lips!), I made myself some simple rules before I started.

    1- I wasn’t allowed to while away hours on it.
    2- I wasn’t allowed to pin anything house-related unless I actually planned to recreate the look myself, and had it within my means.
    3- I wasn’t allowed to pin anything outfit/style-related unless it was something I could recreate with either my sewing machine or what was already in my closet.

    The first rule was (obviously) to keep it from being “so addicting.” The second and third rule were to make sure that it didn’t make me feel bad about my own life. And amazingly enough, those three rules have worked really well for me. I can appreciate a good fancy house or outfit without jealousy, partially because I know once I scroll past it I’ll never see it again (since I don’t pin those things). I have unfollowed almost everyone’s fitness boards because I’m so sickened by the demeaning messages and images on most of them. When I went off refined sugar, I stopped pinning desserts and unfollowed any “dessert” boards. (One of my friends jokes that it’s not a true Pinterest desert unless it’s something like a candy inside a cookie inside a brownie!) If my life gets busy, I don’t get on Pinterest.

    But it’s really been a source of awesome things for me – I’ve found some really great recipes, some fun craft ideas, and (perhaps my favorite) some REALLY cool household tricks. Like the one about shredding chicken with your Kitchenaid? If for nothing else, Pinterest was worth it for THAT!

    …And I’m with you on the red velvet, salted caramel, chevrons, and Ryan Gosling.

  13. Roberta

    May 29, 2012

    I haven’t found the glory of Pinterest. I’ve tried to browse the sites but I get bored with it really fast. I guess it goes with my aversion to window shopping…

  14. Biobrit

    May 29, 2012

    I’ve been using Pinterest for a few months now and I’ve been enjoying it but not LOVING it.

    My first reaction to it made me think, “wow. Women sure love shopping.” Or as a friend of mine quipped (sarcastically), “B****es really love accessories.”

    I really do use it for bookmarking pages. My favorite things are recipes and crafts, and I actually do follow through! I’ve done so many cooking projects because of Pinterest that I wouldn’t have done before. It’s the same thing with crafts. I’ve gotten a lot more projects finished than I normally would have.

    On a down-side, I was so frustrated at first to see so many pins about health, body image, and exercising. It was a little depressing to see pins claiming to get rid of tummy flab, and 10 easiest way to lose baby weight. I eventually went and “un-followed” all of those offending boards. Now I don’t have to look at them anymore. Yay!

  15. Gerb

    May 29, 2012

    You pegged it for me – “Not-enoughness”. I browsed around a couple of times looking for birthday party ideas and I was either super judgmental of people who go (in my opinion ) WAAAAY over the top for their 1,2 and 3-year-olds or feeling that not-enoughness in about every other instance. I’ve looked up decorating ideas and recipes and just felt completely inadequate.

    Needless to say, I do not visit very often. The one thing I DO love is the plethora of Star Wars stuff because we’re nerds that way.

  16. Matthew Graczyk

    May 29, 2012

    Pinterest is great for social bookmarking, but what about personal bookmarking – the bookmarks for the sites you visit over and over? I use iCrumz.com.

  17. LLH

    May 29, 2012

    I have stayed away from Pinterest, mostly because I so completely relate to this “Aside from tole-painting like nobody’s business during the late 80s and the occasional quilt, I am the anti-craft.” For me, the only “crafts” I ever engage in are crochet and (before I had babies) cross stitch. It is impossible to do with children around for me. I simply do not enjoy “crafting” in almost all of its forms.

    I also got completely turned off to it by a co-worker who literally spent hours and hours at work on pinterest, squealing loudly every time she found something she thought was cute. Maybe I am judging it too harshly because of that experience, but I just have no desire to even go on there to look around.

  18. Mrs. Organic

    May 29, 2012

    I hit pinterest burnout a but back, but it was great. I still pin things, and I love it as a way of remembering recipes.

    I was thinking about a lot of my fitness pins through the eyes of my girls the other day and now I’m deleting it. I just don’t think the photos and advice jive with how I want them to see their bodies.

  19. JM

    May 29, 2012

    Pinterest has it’s pros, and we all know what they are, but it also has some cons. For me it was that feeling of “not enoughness” that I had eliminated along with my magazine subscriptions years ago. Also in the “con” column was the immense amount of garbage pins. Add to that Pinterest’s penchant for deciding I would follow people I had never heard of with no input from me, the fact that you can’t set a board to “private”, and things are weighing heavily on the “con” side.
    The thing that hit me the hardest, though, was when I saw something really great looking on a front door while I was taking a walk. My first thought wasn’t “I love it,” or “that looks fabulous,” no, my first thought was, “huh, I saw that on Pinterest.” I felt completely robbed of that moment when we see something great and admire it. Something special isn’t so special when the whole world’s seen it.

    I love to save articles to refer to later, too. Instapaper.com is a great way to do that. Add a “read later” button to your toolbar and you can save any webpage to Instapaper for later. You can even sort your articles into folders you create yourself. Best of all, it’s totally private.

  20. Emily

    May 29, 2012

    Things I am tired of on Pinterest:
    Tattoos
    Manicure ideas
    Step-by-step braiding techniques. (I’m not 17 and I have short hair.)
    Sexy, sweaty, work out girls and inspirational running quotes

    What I love it for:
    *Decorating my husbands office. Everything we liked, we pinned and then when it was time to buy wall hangings and accessories, I knew just where to find them.
    *Pottery ideas. I’m a potter and I love having an “idea file”. I used to save images to my desktop. Now I pin them.
    *Searching for specific ideas. At Halloween, I wanted to decorate my mantel so I searched for “Halloween Mantel” and got some great ideas which I morphed into my own cute mantel decor.

    *I’ve also made a few of the recipes and two bulletin boards thanks to Pinterest inspiration.

    *My sister who is the Young Womens president in our ward, uses it for all sorts of churchy, young women-y ideas.

    So for me, it’s a win. But like you said, it’s about balance.

  21. Aly

    May 29, 2012

    Pinterest, for me, is reminiscent of a few years back before magazines started to fold… my mom would save all her home magazines and when the girls all came home to visit we’d go through them, rip out recipes we wanted to try or home remodeling ideas we liked. We’d hold them up and say things like, ‘would this work in my master bath?’ or ‘do you have everything for this recipe? Let’s try it tonight.’ So, since my mom, sisters, and I all pin and re-pin from each other I have no problem with Pinterest–it makes me happy. OH–except for the profanity and bad grammar/spelling. That makes me a little crazy.

  22. Emily

    May 29, 2012

    P.S. It should also be noted that it has great application for business. My husband and I made a graphic for “How to brush and floss your kid’s teeth”. We posted it on his blog (he’s a pediatric dentist) and then pinned it. It got repinned a number of times and the hits to my husbands website increased which (in theory) should boost his SEO.
    (Here’s the link if you’re curious or want to boost our SEO)
    http://www.warnerpediatricdental.com/_blog/Blog/post/How_To_Brush_and_Floss_Your_Kids_Teeth_(the_right_way!)/

    So Pinterest isn’t all fun and games. It can be a great business tool too!

    (And unfortunately, people are already starting to use it for spam by linking pins to the spammer websites. Super annoying! )

  23. bth

    May 29, 2012

    Not pinterested in pinterest. I liked Tiffany W.’s comment and also don’t see how looking at things other people have done helps me have a productive day. If anything, I can see it making me feel depressed that my efforts are inadequate. I spend enough energy and time at it that I sincerely hope I’m not inadequate. But since I don’t put swirly frosting onto cupcakes and stick tiny toothpick signs on them for special occasions, I sometimes feel that I am.

  24. Cathy

    May 29, 2012

    when you do the “In What Universe is that a good idea?” board I’ll be so following your.
    🙂

  25. Colleen

    May 29, 2012

    I am so glad I’m not the only one who takes issue with re-using toilet paper tubes for crafts. Not that I use ANYTHING for crafts, but certainly not something so likely to be covered in germs.

  26. angie f

    May 29, 2012

    When I learned that you can put scoops of icecream in muffin tins to prefreeze for a birthday party, I was grateful for pinterest. When I see new style ideas I can put together with clothes already in my closet so I look somewhat put together and dressed from this century, I feel trendy and frugal because of pinterest. When I find new recipes to try in the hopes my children will actually eat something, I gather strength to go into the kitchen again because of pinterest. When I was searching for new books for my eight year old boy to read, I was happy (because of pinterest) to find a new Roald Dahl (we are nuts for Roald Dahl in our house) book I didn’t know about (Boy). I try never to go there without something specific for which to search.

    I try to be very careful about pinning things that aren’t attributed, so as not to run afoul of anyone’s intellectual property. I never pin anything unless I go all the way through to the website first and check it out. I like the visual bulletin board aspect. I am queen of lost papers, so this works better for me and I can actually find things that if I’d clipped out of a magazine would be long lost to pile-dom by now.

  27. Malisa

    May 29, 2012

    Pinterest is working better and better for me. When I see something I don’t like (whether I’m bothered by it or just not interested), I simpley unfollow the board/person. I tend to pin mostly home improvement, design, and woodworking. It helps me find new perspectives on the many projects I have planned.

    I do follow more of the people I know IRL because I find it interesting to see what they like. 🙂

  28. Malisa

    May 29, 2012

    *simply. It’s late and I deleted the post once by accident. Time for bed!

  29. bth

    May 30, 2012

    @angie f: I can see your point. . . so now I guess I’d have to say that I’m slightly more pinterested in pinterest now than I was before reading your comment.

  30. Queen Scarlett

    May 30, 2012

    My favorite pinboards are my “giggling” and “gazing” boards. Because, I like to laugh, and I like looking at pretty things.

    I didn’t start pinning to “do” things. So maybe that’s why I don’t feel the “not enough” bit of things. I pin because I think it’s cool, or “ooh, shiny.”

    Also, I don’t believe that there is a finite amount of good in the world, and I don’t think life is a competition. I know people do, but I choose to sit out on things like that. It also helps with the not ever feeling “not enough” bit. Can’t feel “not enough” if I’m not playing the game. Ha! 😉

    ps. I did try a cupcake recipe on pinterest – it was a fail, so disgusting. I’ve been tempted to start a #Fail board, but like you, don’t want to give bad ideas more attention. 😉

  31. Michelle

    June 5, 2012

    Dalene,

    Sorry for the delay. I use it more in sharing info mode rather than collecting info for myself (although sometimes I’ll use it in bookmark mode for an article or recipe that I want to remember). My Pinterest account is associated with my mormonwoman.org site, and so mostly it’s just another way to share info with others and have a sort of filing system for content ‘out there’ in various categories that are of interest to MW readers and/or that I’m interested in sharing with readers.

    I also like angie f’s thoughts about having a *reason* to go to Pinterest…to get specific ideas for a current need. The contrast to that, I think, would be using it to fantasize in unhealthy ways about a life or house or body type, etc. I also worry a little about it replacing getting personal inspiration for callings, etc. so I’m cautious about ‘quick-fix’ church ideas, too. (My biggest regret from the time I was a YW president 12 years ago was that I spent too much time on the internet and idea boards and not enough time on my knees.)

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