Ah, Pinterest. The love of the crafty and the bane of the busy. A place where men and women, young and old, creative and… otherwise… can come together to marvel at the genius of others and plan lists upon lists of exciting things they are never going to try.
Pinterest is, I’ve found, one of those unique things that everyone who uses it either loves or hates. (Much like chocolate, skinny jeans, and What About Bob?) People who hate it tend to hate it pretty quietly, while people who love it spend a lot of time shouting their love from the rooftops. Wherever you stand, I think you can agree that, for better or for worse, Pinterest isn’t going anywhere.
I’m a Pinterest lover. I spend a little bit of time almost every day browsing the app on my phone, or sifting through the newest boards on my laptop. I love repinning projects to attempt, funny cartoons, and neat try-this-at-home tricks. But the longer I’ve been on this site, the more it’s begun to bother me. I don’t feel that Pinterest is evil, or people shouldn’t use it. I simply think that I no longer believe it’s all it claims to be. Here, allow me to elaborate:
1. It creates discontent.
Open up pinterest.com and here’s what you’ll find on the homepage: some humor, some cool tutorials, a handful of fan art, a slew of celebrity pictures, entire boards of “stuff,” and lots and lots of food. All bad? Nope. Kinda bad? Maybe.
Pinterest has created the world’s biggest wish list. I don’t have anything against wishing for things. I don’t even have anything against owning some of those things we wished for. But if you look through your boards and see mostly things you want but don’t have, it may be time to seriously ask yourself how healthy your Pinterest habits are.
2. It creates unrealistic expectations of reality.
We’re all familiar with humorous sites like Pinterest, You Are Drunk and Pinterest Fail. It seems almost natural that people would begin coming forward with their own unsuccessful versions of what they find on the site. While these websites are fun to browse, they do reveal a very interesting detail about how we see ourselves and others. When people fail in these endeavors, they often wind up on these sites as objects of ridicule. Some posts are self-submitted, but a great number of people are criticized for being unable to recreate examples of perfection. And the “fail blog” is such a common idea, that we don’t bat an eye. When we spend so much time expecting perfection from others, we eventually begin to expect it from ourselves, and take unnecessary hits to our self-esteem each time we can’t measure up.
3. It creates a false sense of accomplishment.
When we come across something neat to try on Pinterest and attach it to a board, something interesting happens. Our brains actually release the same happy hormones we get from actual accomplishment. That’s right – when we announce to the world our intentions to be awesome, our brains actually pat themselves on the back for something we haven’t even done yet. At that point, our motivation to really go accomplish something is significantly diminished. (And you wondered why you haven’t gotten around to making that rainbow swirl cake in a cup yet!) Just remember that pins are just potential: unless we act on them, they’re useless.
4. It trains us to stop asking “why?”
I’m sure all of us in the pinning world have come across that one pin that is just baffling. The tutorial on how to make your hair look like a bird’s nest, the giant cardboard crayons, the rock cozies. And we, as happy pinners, are so preoccupied with the “how” that we forget to ask “why.” Are these projects cute? Sure. Creative? Undoubtedly. Fun? Possibly. Useful? Eh. When our boards are full of functionally useless ideas, it may be time to take a step back from “can it be done?” and start looking at “should it be done?”
But for all the things about Pinterest about which I’m not happy, I have found one major reason to stay logged in.
It demonstrates the power of the internet in improving our lives.
Once upon a time, people just knew how to do things. Everyone could clean and cook and do home improvement and live, to a certain extent, without the help of a “specialist.” Then somewhere along the line, people just stopped learning how to deal with basic, everyday things. We started designing college degrees around these skills, creating the illusion that it’s okay to not know how to cook if you didn’t go to culinary school, or not know how to sew if you didn’t study to be a tailor. Now when something breaks in our homes, we call a specialist. When we can’t get a stain out of our favorite shirt, we throw it away and go spend money on a new favorite. When we need a piece of furniture for our room, we drive to IKEA and buy one. Now again, I’m not opposed to spending money, and I know that – at least in modern-day America – not everyone can have a wood shop in their back yard. But Pinterest has rekindled something in us that has been lost: do-it-yourself-ness. There are tons of pins that detail not new tricks for living, but old ones. Tried-and-true DIY stuff that our grandparents and their parents knew how to do, back in a more self-sufficient time. Pinterest has created an atmosphere of community, in which anyone, from almost anywhere in the world, can share their knowledge and improve the lives of everyone who hears them. And that, I think, is a very good reason to keep pinning.