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?
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.
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.