I know, I know. Pinterest is the quiet love affair of every female I know and a decent number of men too. And truly, I understand the appeal. The site provides an endless scroll of eye candy: gorgeous master bedrooms, sexy skinny jeans, and mouthwatering recipes. Pinning it all makes it easy to show off your own fabulous taste by pinning these images to your own e-pinboard and dreaming about turning your pinboards into reality.
The problem is this: choosing to spend my time on Pinterest is nothing more than willfully spending my hours in front of content created by people who want to sell me something, or rather, everything.
By its very nature, Pintrest makes you a consumer. It differs from other social mediums because when you write a blog post, upload a photo to Instagram, or begin a rousing debate on Facebook you’re creating something: a gallery, an essay, or a conversation (admittedly, all these avenues are more than worthy of their own scrutiny- another day perhaps). But when you spend your time browsing Pinterest, you’re absorbing the information someone else created for your consumption. You’ll see photos created by fashion designers who want you to buy clothes,wiry models with two-hour-in-the-making hairdos hired to illustrate to you that your hips are too wide and your boobs too small, and images created by talented bloggers in hopes of drawing you to their site so that they can proffer their own magazine-esque lives and sell your eyeballs to their advertisers.
We all like to pretend that ads don’t work on us- that they are designed to sell things to other people who are less media savvy than we are, but its a lie, especially among those of us that work in the marketing industry. Advertising works on nearly everyone, exposing us to goods and services that companies would like to make appear to be “normal,” encouraging all of us to conform by purchasing.
Despite my affiliation with an industry that encourages people to buy stuff, I aim to be a frugal person who isn’t wasteful with my time and money and so I make a pretty concerted effort to avoid to many avoidable encounters with commercial messaging. We don’t own a television for this very reason. Though I suppose some may find our lifestyle a little insular, I try to opt out of as many sales tactics as possible because being constantly exposed to a barrage of goods sold under the premise that using these products to become more stylish, thin, and talented will make me happy in fact, makes me less happy with the bounty I already have.
All this effort, and yet I still used to find myself scrolling through gorgeous pins on my lunch break and before bed, imagining how I might gloss up my life while simultaneously wasting the free time with which I might actually make positive change.
Its not that Pinterest doesn’t ever provide me any benefits. I’m the first to admit that fashion isn’t my strong suit and checking in with Pinterest daily at least theoretically helped me avoid mom jeans. But herein lies the problem, I don’t know exactly what my life’s work is, but I am positive that it isn’t to spend my after work hours imagining how I might style my life to look positively adorable. Without the aid of Pinterest, I’m far less likely to be aware of the trendiest paint colors and I will probably be spotting last year’s model of flats (or more likely, whatever model was acceptable in 2007), but if it means feeling comfortable with a perfectly usable wardrobe, content in a safe warm but unfashionably linoleum clad kitchen, and able to spend my free time doing some good in the world instead of on the internet, I’m on board.
As I’ve mentioned my new year’s plan to friends and family, I repeatedly get the same response. “But I use it to find recipes!” Sure you do, although that doesn’t explain your other 1,800 pins. So do I. Ok, fine, no I don’t. I’m not that gourmet. But I do use it to find images of haircuts I like to take to my stylist, to promote my own work, and to identify the “must see” spots at my next travel destinations. Pinterest can be a fun and sometimes powerful tool for finding creative ideas to improve your life. But that’s not how most of us are using it. Mostly, browsing Pinterest helps me solve problems I didn’t know I had, which is an unappetizing recipe for discontent.
If you’re going to use your account to find a theme for a birthday party, identify a vacation place, or to sort out your dinner plans, forge ahead. Browse the images, find the solution to your problem. Bookmark it on a darling board if you’d like. And then when you’ve located a tactic to help you actually build your dream life, walk away from the computer and go create it in your real life kitchen with your real life kids, not on a digital board where you share it with other digital strangers.
In 2014, I resolve to scour my virtual “life”, weeding out all of those project ideas I don’t have time to do and the shoes I won’t ever make room in my budget for. I’m going to free myself from Pinterest’s normalizing force that tells me that everyone I know is wearing those cute leggings/boots/eye shadow palates and that I can’t possibly be content until I have some too.
I may seem like an unlikely candidate for stepping back from Pinterest in such a public way. After all, my job title announces that I use social media for a living. And while I acknowledge that I’m unlikely to make a totally clean break from my account (after all, I’ve got to get my hair cut eventually and obviously I’m still going to do my job), I’m done spending time browsing through the wish lists of everyone I know and of strangers I’ve never met. I want freedom from the endless parade of things I don’t have because this year I want to be single-mindedly focused investing my precious minutes creating something that matters.
One of my favorite pins on my now neglected boards declares that “I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet.” I intend to make that my motto, and I intend to accomplish it by simply stepping away from them.