Are you on Pinterest?
This virtual pinboard that lets you create, organize, and share what you find online. Because it’s a visually-oriented site, it attracts us using something other social media sites haven’t done nearly as well: images. While online we tend to be seekers. We look for information, distraction, connection, and inspiration. Pinterest lets us find (and revel in) all these things through compelling images.
The site was launched in March 2010. One of the founders, Ben Silbermann, said in an interview that the idea stemmed from his penchant for collecting. As a child he was particularly taken with entomology. He realized that collecting bugs said something about him, just as any of our interests say something about us. Co-founder Evan Sharp noted that he too was a collector as a child. As an adult that tendency shifted to amassing images in folders on his desktop. So they, along with the third co-founder, Paul Sciarra, developed Pinterest as a way for users to collect and share related images, linking back to the originating site.
Pinterest didn’t catch on immediately. But within a few months users began applying it in ways the founders hadn’t anticipated. They posted Star Wars memorabilia, travel destinations, Etsy items, wedding plans, and gift ideas. And it’s really taking off. From Oct 2010 to Oct 2011, Pinterest went from 40,000 to 3.2 million monthly unique visitors. Big retailers like Nordstrom and Lands End are seeking to integrate Pinterest into their sites.
Articles about Pinterest often focus on how it can drive sales or be used as a PR tool. For example TechCrunch predicts Pinterest could change consumer behavior, causing them to seek out goods favored by other Pinterest users. This may be true.
But what’s noted but little understood is that the primary users of Pinterest, at least so far, tend to be women. A regular look at the Everything front page indicates that these users aren’t necessarily on Pinterest primarily to share consumer recommendations, although there are plenty of tempting pins for fashion and home décor products. They’re using it to share inspiration for ways to live; with more humor and less angst, with beauty found in an evocative landscape, with clever ideas for raising kids or making gifts or building a garden shed. This in itself makes Pinterest seem like a blessed relief from the endless marketing found online.
I’ve fallen for it for several reasons.
1. It’s hubbub free. Unlike FB, Twitter, or G+ you don’t need to scroll past drama or post repeats, nor do need to hop in regularly lest it seem you’re ignoring ongoing conversations. Instead of all those voices clamoring for your attention, Pinterest has a peaceful vibe. It’s like moseying through a quiet gallery of images, each one ready to tell you more with a click.
2. It’s a wonderful way to store visually inspiring ideas for later use. Going back over your own boards can be like flipping through magazines made entirely of what you love. Previous pins can help you find the appetizer you want to serve at tomorrow’s party, the shelves you want to build in your kitchen next summer, and the project that teaches your kids about the periodic table as soon as they’re old enough.
3. It’s a way to browse freely and casually within any interest you might have. Yes, you can create circles on G+ and lists on Twitter, but on Pinterest it’s easy to follow any chosen user’s specific boards. Whether you want ideas for a toddler’s birthday party or images of breastfeeding or ways to preserve family peace, you’ll find it on Pinterest.
4. Marketers assume Pinterest will drive sales and yes, there are plenty of luscious products pinned. But I wonder if it might actually serve as an antidote to materialism for some people. Sorting and sharing images may satisfy the urges often channeled into shopping or ordering online. If purchasing has something to do with acquiring and keeping, maybe, just maybe, acquiring and keeping images may fill the same need.
5. It’s a way of sharing what delights us with others. By organizing what appeals to us, we make it easier for other people to find interesting ideas and images. It’s heartening, in a way, to find that a woman I know as a writer of math books also has a thing for Spanish architecture, punk t-shirts, frothy cocktails, and Daniel Craig movies.
Find me on Pinterest!
About Laura Grace Weldon
Laura Grace Weldon is a writer, editor, conflict resolution educator, and marginally useful farm wench. She is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives with her family on Bit of Earth Farm. Check out life on the farm at http://bitofearthfarm.wordpress.com/ and keep up with Laura’s relentless optimism at http://lauragraceweldon.com/blog-2/