The Trouble With Pinterest

{ 40 comments }


If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you? My answer to that question used to be an emphatic “No!” until just recently, when I was with a group of friends who were all jumping off a cliff.

I blame Pinterest.

For those of you who don’t know what Pinterest is:

Short version: Pictures of beautiful food, beautiful babies, beautiful animals, beautiful design, beautiful people, beautiful destinations, and other ridiculously beautiful beautifulness.

Long version: Pinterest is a virtual pin-board of eye candy. You create your own ‘Boards,’ which are like scrapbook pages for your interests, and you name these boards whatever you want, like: Where I’d rather be, or, Houses that I wish I lived in. That kind of thing. Then you begin to populate your boards with images that take your fancy.

Once you grow addicted, you begin obsessively squirrelling away beautiful images, trying to capture and keep all the pretty, pretty things, stacking them up like tuna cans in an Armageddon bunker to see you through a bleak future.

So back to the cliff jumping …

Warning: Pinterest may make you jump off cliffs.

I was hanging out on Pinterest and I found this image of a girl leaping off a cliff:

“I want to do that!” I thought. The romantic black and white image freeze-frames a moment of youth, freedom, and daring; a moment I wanted to have—no, should have—in my lifetime. I filed it under a Pinterest board called Take me there, and made a note-to-self to leap off the next available cliff.

On the island of Koh Tao, Thailand, I came to the perfect location with some friends. The drop into the emerald-green water below looked terrifying , but the memory of that photograph propelled me forward.

Jump, Torre. Be young! Be daring! Be beautiful! Be Pinterest-y! 

I surrendered into that moment so completely that I hit the water like a limp fish. Was it a snapshot of beautiful, daring youth? No, no it was not. It was a fleeting moment of flailing through thin air, followed by some ass-slapping, chest-pounding, neck-jarring agony. It’s possible that I fractured a rib or two. The fall bruised my ass in fifty shades of black.

Two weeks after the jump, it still hurts to sneeze.

Warning: Pinterest may mislead you.

Images on Pinterest promote a world more vibrant and visually beautiful than the one we live in. You see this?

Dreamy, huh?

It’s lies. All lies. See this? And this? More deceptions.

These are examples of the amazing capabilities of camera lenses, Photoshop, and talent artists. These images have been painstakingly doctored, and it’s likely that many of them were collaged from several shots. Most of the photos that go viral on Pinterest make life appear magazine-worthy.

Warning: Pinterest may make your life seem dull.

I live in a bungalow in Thailand overlooking the ocean, and I sometimes catch myself on Pinterest craving more than what I have. Dammit! I should be in Mexico swimming in an azure cave pool right now! I should be sailing! I should be in a hammock with my sister under a warm beam of morning sunlight! I should be …

It’s easy to spend hours on the website, falling into a wistful daze, imagining where you could be, what you could be doing, and what you’re missing out on in life. Pinterest is a place that pulls you from What Is, and seduces you into What Could Be.

But it can’t be.

It’s like an IKEA catalogue. This Swedish megastore will fool you into believing that if you just buy a Grönkulla and a few Riktig Öglas, you’ll have a miraculously improved life. You’ll be organised! Happy! Fulfilled!

But have you ever looked closely at an IKEA catalogue? You may have noticed a few things missing: there’s no dog hair woven into the rug, no tangle of computer cords, no spread of work on the desk, no questionable stains on the carpeting. The unavoidable clutter of real life is absent. In the world of IKEA, the messiness of real life—kids, pets, in-laws—tucks neatly behind the beech veneer doors of a Borgsjö. And we all know that in-laws won’t fit inside a Borgsjö! (“It’s too hot and stuffy in here! Let us out … blah, blah, blah.” Jesus, shut up already!)

You’ll never live inside an IKEA catalogue, because it’s promoting an image of idealistic perfection that will never be.

You’ll never live inside your Pinterest boards either, because it’s reality on LSD. If you believe that it’s representative of real life, you’ll always feel disappointment over what is right in front of you. Pinterest is mostly make-believe posing as real life.

I’m not saying that the real world isn’t beautiful—it is. But beauty is found in the unique moments that come to us, not in the staged snapshots that are Pinterest-worthy.

So why even go to the website? Well, for social media enthusiasts like myself, it’s The Place to Be. And besides  everyone else is on Pinterest, and if everyone else is jumping off a cliff … well …

But this isn’t an anti-Pinterest post, it’s only a warning. If used correctly, it can be an amazing tool for generating new ideas, planning, networking, and filling up your creative pool.

But use it with caution, people.

Keep your envy in check. Use the tool mindfully and be present to your emotional wellbeing. If you find yourself feeling sad while dreaming about a better, shinier, 45% more vibrant life, just remember:

Real life contains mess.

Real life bruises your ass fifty shades of black.

Do you use Pinterest? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Discuss.

Leave a Comment

  • Stu October 2, 2012, 8:44 am

    This made me laugh a lot, I have never truly understood pinterest as a “social” tool its more of brainstorming board for me. For example as a photographer I started using it as a one stop shop for inspiration and also planning out trips and possible photographic opportunities but I feared I would spend more time pinning than actually doing so I knocked it on the head. It for me is a glorified bookmarking tool for images, I may go back to it one day but not quite yet!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 2, 2012, 10:37 am

      “I feared I would spend more time pinning than actually doing” — that nails the problem! Doing isn’t as much fun as the pictures promise! ;)

      Reply
  • Meg | One Love Meg October 2, 2012, 10:23 am

    That is so funny that you did this post today, because I wrote a “I love Pinterest Post”. I totally understand where you are coming from. Your warning signs are perfect. Pinterest could make you feel under privileged or that you don’t have enough. It could also eventually make everyone plan the same party, have the same hairstyle or decorate their homes the same. Maybe it’s important to make sure we are always contributing to it so it doesn’t get to uniform. Nice post!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 2, 2012, 10:40 am

      Meg, I could’ve written an “I love Pinterest” post too, because I really do love it. But I notice that when I spend a lot of time there, inspiration turns to envy, which turns into an ugly, uncontrollable beast.

      Reply
  • Christine October 2, 2012, 12:23 pm

    I don’t spend nearly as much time on Pinterest as I once did, but I still find it somewhat inspirational–although I use it more for fashion and interior decoration and wordplay fun! The travel photos all just seem way too edited–there are so many other ways that I’d rather be inspired to find a travel destination.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 2, 2012, 3:29 pm

      Way too edited. Exactly. And yet my eyes fall for it every single time.

      Reply
  • Carmel October 2, 2012, 2:28 pm

    I use it, but I’m glad I discovered it AFTER my wedding, otherwise it would have cost us thousands of dollars more or I would’ve felt like my wedding was shit (it was not shit…it was actually quite lovely).

    These days, I’m pinning boring stuff like websites I need to go back to for visa information, work out routines, recipes for saving money…nothing glamorous. As a mostly utilitarian tool, it works really well.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 2, 2012, 3:35 pm

      “I’m glad I discovered it AFTER my wedding, otherwise it would have cost us thousands of dollars more or I would’ve felt like my wedding was shit” — ha! Pinterest consists of about 65% wedding porn.

      Reply
  • Scott October 2, 2012, 3:17 pm

    I was going to write something snarky about how envious your blog makes me feel about your life, but I decided that would only make me look like a loser. Sigh.

    You rock.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 2, 2012, 3:37 pm

      Aww. Don’t envy bloggers. We’re just a bunch of nutty geeks.

      Reply
  • Myra October 2, 2012, 4:38 pm

    I love Pinterest for collecting crocheting ideas (no, I haven’t actually made any, yet…). But you’re right – most of it’s perfected snippets of a reality that doesn’t exist. I love that picture of the girl jumping into the water, and can say that I did something similar when I was a teenager in Hawaii. I also had huge bruises all over my ass for the rest of my vacation, and gained a new fear of heights.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 3, 2012, 1:40 am

      Yeah, nobody warns you about the ass-bruises.

      All of the friends who jumped before me came out unscathed. This could be because they’re all professional divers, meaning their bodies are made of rock-hard muscles and courage. As a writer/designer, my body is made up of dairy products and anxiety.

      Reply
  • Sarah Somewhere October 2, 2012, 11:11 pm

    Hey Torre, if you’re a social media enthusiast, then I’m an un-enthusiast! I’m on Pinterest ’cause I write a blog I’d like people to read (I heard it helps!), but then I don’t really use it, so it kinda defeats the purpose. I’m not on Facebook, which basically puts me in the ‘Social Pariah’ category (not even wanting people to read my blog will get me through those virtual doors), but I do use twitter as it’s short and sweet… I DIGRESS! I have just discovered Goodreads, which is officially my favourite place to be on the internet at the moment, (except here… of course). I love it, because it’s all about the books, not about how fucking fantastic my virtual life is! And though there are some reviews I highly disagree with, that’s as annoying as it gets. I wonder how many ‘pins’ of your cool graphic there will be?! Great post, as always. Your writing is always fresh and surprising. Thank you for not being crap!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 3, 2012, 1:46 am

      No Facebook?
      I am in awe.
      If you’re a Pariah,
      then I am a whore.

      Sorry—I couldn’t resist a little new-media poetry. I love Goodreads. I spend a crazy amount of time on there, and on Amazon too. Sometimes I read bad reviews and pretend they’re for my book. It’s hurtful. Why are people so MEAN to me?

      Reply
  • Amy October 3, 2012, 8:04 am

    I haven’t used Pintrest. Yet. I don’t think I have/want to put in the time.

    But I said the same thing about Facebook. I didn’t have Facebook until I started travelling a few years ago…. maybe there will be a catalyst one day that will make me look at Pintrest. But until then, I think I’m fine without it.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 9, 2012, 2:55 am

      It’s more of a visual space: a place for collecting imagery, which is great for designers or people who are planning events. As long as you don’t get addicted!

      Reply
  • Dani October 4, 2012, 7:32 pm

    Oh, the Pinterest envy… I know it so well! I am sitting here in a beach house in Costa Rica with an infinity pool but every time I go on Pinterest I find a place I’d rather be at – it’s ridiculous!! :D I still love Pinterest and I just love having a place where I can ‘bookmark’ all kinds of things by category and can find them easily again when I need them. Oh and all the yummy recipes I discover on Pinterest!!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 9, 2012, 2:56 am

      Damn! Why am I not in a beach house with an infinity pool in Costa Rica?! ;)

      Reply
  • Antonia Murphy October 4, 2012, 9:34 pm

    Lovely post. I am particularly smitten with the Pinterest Wheel of Doom. This may be the start of a series: Sailing Wheel of Doom? Romance Wheel of Doom? Attempting to be a Published Author Wheel of Doom?

    Mildly interested in Pinterest, but I can’t figure it out yet. How do I pin things again? What’s happening on Facebook? Wait, was that a Tweet?

    On second thought, perhaps we’d better start with a Social Media And No Attention Span Wheel of Doom.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 9, 2012, 2:59 am

      I like your idea for a Wheel of Doom series. With a pessimistic mind like mine, I would never run out of material.

      Reply
  • Edna October 5, 2012, 12:41 pm

    “It’s reality on LSD” — love that! I tried but could never get into Pinterest, and I think that’s probably a good thing. Especially considering I’m currently planning a wedding and seeing everyone else’s wedding porn only makes me more determined to have the simplest, cheapest wedding possible!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 9, 2012, 3:00 am

      I’m taking it a step further than you by deciding not to get married at all. :)

      Reply
  • Hannah October 6, 2012, 12:42 pm

    I’m on Pinterest but haven’t done much pinning yet. I’m pretty lazy when it comes to social media tbh, but I do like pretty pictures, so it’s definitely appealing to me. Oh, and I love your Pinterest graphic :)

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 9, 2012, 3:01 am

      What? Too busy travelling or something, Hanna? ;)

      Reply
  • Ayngelina October 6, 2012, 7:17 pm

    I was sucked into Pinterest big time but the fascination fades, especially when it starts to make you feel like your life is lame :)

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 9, 2012, 3:03 am

      Ha ha. I’m glad you see where I’m coming from! At first it’s so inspiring, and then you realise it’s so far out of your reach. The illustrations and designs are particularly depressing to me. I’ll NEVER be that good! *cry*

      Reply
  • Tara October 9, 2012, 2:02 am

    My name is Tara and I’m a Pinterest-a-holic. I love Pinterest. Yes, it does make me envy the lives of others, but mostly I just want to know who has that much time to make a Christmas tree out of wine bottles (totally pinned this by the way). I do like that it introduces me to new things… I found your blog through Pinterest after all! And even though it makes me long for faraway places, unique recipes and a closet the size of a small country, I’m also happy right now, in the moment, in my living room, pinning away :)

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche October 9, 2012, 3:10 am

      I didn’t see the Christmas tree made out of wine bottles, but that sounds like my kind of tree! Thanks for stopping by, Tara. Keep up that lovely balance of being inspired and being in the moment.

      Reply
  • Jo (The Blond) October 9, 2012, 7:57 pm

    And I just wanted to join the site…I will think about it a little more.
    ha ha the part about IKEA made me laugh.

    Reply
  • Ekua October 21, 2012, 10:32 pm

    I think the misleading images are a larger issue with travel photography in general. There are so many ways to end up with images that look nothing like the actual experience which can be a total downer when you actually visit those places.

    I make an effort to avoid pinning images that clearly don’t look like real life, but I slip quite often. I couldn’t resist pinning that Badlands sunset picture a couple weeks ago :P

    Reply
  • ericajolo November 1, 2012, 11:45 pm

    I bowed down to pressure, signed up for Pinterest, and immediately didn’t get it. I know people who post pictures of the Croatian coast, African safaris, and cities like Istanbul on their travel boards and I don’t know who they think they’re kidding. They know, and I know, that they would NEVER do those kinds of trips. I guess Pinterest is great for creating a fantasy land, but in the end, I think it’s pretty detrimental.

    Reply
  • J. Sclafani December 13, 2012, 4:29 am

    Hi Torre,

    Yes, I will admit it- I didn’t see it coming when I started reading your article.

    But you just gave me a whole new perspective on Pinterest and its possible negative effects on people who visit/join the site.

    Suddenly, I see the psychological implications behind why some people are members of this site.

    I currently don’t belong to Pinterest, but since I am a major collector of all sorts of images &prints of things I like or find beautiful, I may one day decide to join.

    On the plus side , with regard to Pinterest, it can be goal oriented for a lot of people.

    Collecting images of things you like or desire is a way to work toward a goal for some individuals. One day they want to own that ( insert item here).

    We all have had a WISH ITEM at some time in our lives that we took the time to save up money for and in that respect, it is a healthy thing to have a goal to get something you really like and be patient about getting it.

    For me, owning a print of an artist’s painting is a trade off to buying some expensive art .

    Sharing your enthusiasm for the things you like, with others who also feel the same, is a a way to find a niche where you meet others who appreciate the same things you do. Great- reminds me of hobby clubs. Nothing wrong there.

    So I see some pluses to Pinterest- but you jolted me awake to the minuses.

    I guess not being a envious person your article took me by surprise.

    (Oh, and as for me not joining Pinterst at this point? I have concerns with copyright infringement issues on the site.)

    Back to your article’s point: It never occurred to me, that the point you made in this article, would ever be an issue if I looked at or joined Pinterest. But that is speaking about myself and we all know there are tons of Pinterest members out there and each one is unique.

    {Btw- your flow chart is well done. Explains the article in visuals and right to the point.)

    Maybe for me it would not be a problem to have an account or even visit the site periodically.

    But for others?

    You are right.
    There is definitely a possibility that the old” grass is greener on the other side” syndrome could set in.

    I saw the site and images collected as things a person may admire or even yearn for, but are okay with not actually having in their life.

    Sort of like you can be okay with the fact that you may never get to go to Tahiti or France, but you admire the beauty of these countries just the same.

    I have long been able to appreciate things and even yearn for them- but still be okay about it, if I never got to have them.

    Sometimes the fun is in the yearning.

    Ever get something you yearned for and then realized it wasn’t all that great after all?

    ( I might also add, that sometimes it is a blessing in disguise NOT to acquire certain things; as odd as that may sound. Some people may very well know exactly what I mean.)

    Also, let’s face it, in reality, even the richest people can’t always get what they want( refrain of Rolling Stones song going through my head now …..*smile*……).

    In my opinion, if Pinterest causes dissatisfaction in some people and their perception of their lives, then they joined the site for the wrong reason.

    But all is not lost if this site might help wake them up to some deep seated problems about themselves, their wants, needs,emptiness, etc.

    Maybe the dissatisfaction that Pinterest arouses in people, can also end up being the impetus to examine their lives more closely and find out why they feel so envious and/or empty because they do not have things other people do.

    Maybe they can one day more accurately answer why they want the things they claim they want. Maybe they will realize it is not about wanting the fancy sofa- the huge house- or the fancy car after all.

    As the saying goes:
    THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE AREN’T THINGS……..

    Such true words.

    But for the segment of people you are addressing as getting into a depression rut ? They have to be aware if it is bringing them down when they log off the site. Not all people recognize depression when it is happening to them. They assume they will be sitting around crying all the time, when actually depression takes on many forms.

    Do they feel a sense of emptiness? Lack? Ineptitude?

    If the comparison of their personal images of what they HAVE vs what other people they see HAVE- is making them feel inadequate, envious or depressed, then there is definitely a problem that should be addressed; preferably by a therapist if deep self analysis doesn’t bring answers.

    I don’t care what anyone ends up buying. The truth is, it seldom really fills a deep need inside yourself, after the thrill of acquiring it.

    And that thrill dissipates awfully fast.

    For the compulsive shopper or *acquirer*, it is then on to the next thing they MUST HAVE and the cycle repeats itself, over and over.

    Acquiring is a way of physically attempting to fill a void inside oneself But it won’t work.
    Just look at compulsive shoppers and you will see what I mean. The *high* of a coveted purchase lasts only so long.

    The the behavior will go on indefinitely until any individual in this situation decides to look deep inside to find out what is really missing in their life( that they cannot buy) that feels like a giant void.

    A void they try to fill by getting more THINGS.

    They remain in the vicious cycle of desiring more things in the misbegotten hope that once they get it, life will be different, life
    will be better. :-( They are confused when life does not change.

    ( Your IKEA analogy is perfect!)

    Life is not like advertsing. Life is not like glamorous ads in magazines- any magazines.

    You are being shown an ideal- very often an ideal that can’t be achieved.

    No wonder people strive for that ideal and sadly fall short of the mark.

    Because in the real world, things are not perfect and all too often, ads are designed to make things look perfect and by buying what is being sold, the viewer becomes convinced their life will be ideal once they buy said item(s).

    It is pretty darn sad if you think about it- and what is even sadder is that this type of thinking- this syndrome if you will- is far more common than people realize.

    Thanks for a thought provoking article.

    Pinterest should be about fun and sharing commonalities ,but you certainly put a different, but very valid spin on it!
    :-)

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 14, 2012, 4:36 am

      Wow. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think you’re spot on with this statement: “Sometimes the fun is in the yearning.”

      Reply
  • Ebriel December 24, 2012, 6:27 am

    When I saw that photo of the cliff-jumping girl, my ass hurt: vestigial memories of cliff-jumping in Croatia ten years ago (when I was young and beautiful!) and the bruises that took weeks to fade.

    Your post is 100% spot-on. Yes, yes, and yes, to the lying photos you posted. Our eyes are so used to seeing doctored images that reality looks blurry and grey in comparison.

    Of course it helps if you live in smoggy places like Beijing ;)

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 25, 2012, 3:09 am

      Ah, so it’s not just me. I see other people doing backflips and I can understand why I’m the only one suffering internal injuries when I jump! Maybe I need to work out more. Hmm. ;)

      Reply
  • Frank January 8, 2013, 6:55 pm

    I’ve signed up because as you say, EVERYONE is on it pinning things left and right. My girlfriend is on it constantly, which would be awesome if I didn’t want to have a conversation but anyway….I’ve yet to get sucked in.

    The point is that if you had a friend who carried around notebooks full of collages and wanted to share them with you all the time that friend would be annoying and avoided at all costs. Somehow it’s okay since it’s the internet? There are some cool things on it (okay okay I’ve peeked a few times) and I get it as a source for inspiration but I have yet to see someone I know actually create something they were inspired to do via Pintrest.

    Now back to looking at kitten videos on YouTube….

    Reply
  • Gigi January 26, 2013, 2:12 pm

    Ha! Exactly!

    I travel the world with my small dog and we’re currently living in a cozy apartment overlooking Italy’s Umbrian countryside. It’s kind of awesome. But. Buuuuttt. Then I look at Pinterest (or Flickr, also Flickr) and think “gosh darn it, I need to be on a tropical beach right now.” Bizarre how easy it is to become discontent.

    I believe it was Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love who said something about how she heard about people’s travels and thought “I want to travel” when she was on her journey.

    Good times.

    Reply
  • Ashley Legebokow November 13, 2013, 8:43 pm

    Hi Torre,

    Your article caught my eye as I am writing an article about the effects social media sites, specifically Pinterest, has on our emotional well-being.

    The idea for this article is based on my own experiences with Pinterest, very similar to yours! I honestly had to stop using Pinterest because it made me feel somewhat depressed and inadequate. I agree with what you are saying, that it is website and can promote ideas and creativity.

    Do you have any more thoughts regarding this? In your opinion, do you think Pinterest can effect our psychological well-being?

    Your response would be greatly appreciated and I would love to include some quotes in my article!

    Ashley

    Reply
  • Laura Grotzinger December 5, 2013, 2:21 am

    I do use pinterest and I love it. But I totally agree with you and looooved this post. I find myself getting envious and I have to stop and tell myself exactly what you wrote down in words. Thanks for posting this :) very inspirational!

    Reply