As if I didn’t already spend enough time on the Internet, I have fallen prey to another site and have added Pinterest.com to my daily rounds. I had heard about the site months ago but dismissed it. Then, I dipped in for a few minutes and was hooked, line and sinker.
At Pinterest, users create online bulletin boards categorized by topics such as gardening, art and travel. As a virtual hunter and gatherer, you spot something on the Internet you’d like to share, “pin” it to one of your bulletin boards, and then the related photograph and site link appear on the Pinterest home page for others to see. If another user re-pins your image, you receive an email notification signed, “Happy pinning.”
The website is relatively new, but it has already amassed more than ten million registered users and clocks more than 1,000 hits every 60 seconds. Businesses have taken notice and are quickly learning to use Pinterest to their benefit.
Commerce aside, the site appears to be about self-expression more so than shopping, despite the many photographs of clothing and home décor. Someone may post a dozen images of boots they long for, but they’re likely window-shopping. And they may collect an album’s worth of photos of their dream bathroom, but they really are just dreaming.
I’d love to vacation in Italy, their post suggests, or I wish I could spend winters in Fiji, says the photograph of the sunlit beach. But they don’t spend winters in Fiji. They spend winters in Ohio, and they’re taking imaginary shelter from the wind and oppressive cloud cover.
They may post a photograph of an otherworldly landscape in China where they have no intention of going, but isn’t it fascinating? Take a look at this hairstyle or this wedding dress or this idea for a children’s party. What do you think of this upholstered chair or this chocolate cake, the best ever?
Lest you become discouraged by the seeming shallowness of all of these pinners, they are also spreading news about health, family and global issues. They are sharing tips about child development, discussing history and science and posting images of art from around the world. They are sharing recipes for all levels of culinary skill and craft projects that display great creativity and resourcefulness.
Already, I am determined to learn to transfer old family photographs to stretched canvas, and my next dinner party may well include a recipe for roasted peanut soup. I have learned how to make tea from apple peels, that the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean is 27,560 feet; and that the number of wild Arabian Oryx, once labeled extinct, is now up to 1,000.
All of this information is readily available elsewhere, but what draws me to Pinterest is that each tidbit has been culled by an individual who has found it worthy of personal attention. The site is all about self-expression, meeting our need for space to dream, to educate and to display beauty—with few exceptions, the posted images are lovely and inviting.
I have wondered how people expressed themselves before the advent of the Internet and social networking sites like Pinterest. Some would say our ancestors were not so self-absorbed, but I tend to believe human nature doesn’t change much era to era. It’s the tools we have at our disposal that change, and they haven’t made us narcissistic; they’ve just broadened our audience.
Decades ago, my grandmother wrote her memoirs out by hand as a form of self-expression, describing food, clothing, childhood pets and family history; and she gave her children the notebooks that told her life story. When you look at the bulletin boards people create on Pinterest and evaluate them as a whole, you can see they form a kind of memoir, with images people have chosen to represent their lives and to tell their stories.
My grandmother’s generation likely would have made full use of such a resource and would have filled their bulletin boards with loads of photographs of the things they most enjoyed in life. Now, outside the confines of a spiral-bound, their descendants can say, “This is me and my life as told through images of what I find beautiful and interesting and of significant value. This is my story.” Happy pinning.