I'm usually not one to jump on the latest online bandwagon. My blog is relatively new, and I started it long after the blog craze had begun. It's still hosted by Blogger. I read all the blogs I read via their sites rather than an RSS feed. I don't have a Twitter account and don't see myself getting ever getting one (140ish characters? It takes me longer than that to sneeze!). I have a Facebook account I check VERY intermittently, and I now have a strict policy about only friending people I actually know and no one under the age of 18 (after some of my teenage babysitters started flooding my feed with inanity). I have never Stumbled anything or posted a video on YouTube. I rarely Like things. I had (have?) a Myspace account which was active for about a summer. I'm not Linkedin. You get the idea.
However, I did (just) get a Pinterest account, and I find the whole phenomena utterly fascinating. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about (perhaps my parents and in-laws?), Pinterest is basically a collection of online bulletin boards to which you can "pin" images from sites you visit to save for later. You can categorize and organize your own boards, view and follow those of other Pinterest users you know (first, those who happen to be your Facebook friends, then anyone else if you like what you see), or watch the pins of all the Pinterest users who happen to be pinning when you log on. You can repin things that catch your fancy to your own boards or simply "like" what you see or even comment on other people's pins. Some users even refer to the pinning they do to their own boards as "curating."
I've noticed some strange trends so far. One, there seems to be a disproportionate number of Mormons (women--I would venture to say that 80-90% of all users are female) pinning with abandon. How do I know this, you ask? Well, when uplifting quotations from people with names like Hinckley, Monson, Bednar, or Uchtdorf (the names of current and past prophets and apostles) keep reappearing every 10-20 pins you see in the general feed, you know something must be up. When quotations from The Proclamation on the Family appear as vinyl letter crafts on decoupaged wood, you start to get suspicious. When FHE (Family Home Evening) ideas start to get repinned left and right, it's clear that there are lots of LDS women getting their pins on. I can see the next ad now: I love Pinterest, and I'm a Mormon!
Two, I didn't think it was possible for any online activity to suck up more free time than Facebook, but Pinterest wins by a mile. At least on Facebook, you can claim to be connecting with real people and their real(ish) lives. On Pinterest, all you're doing is watching how folks surf the web and chronicling your own surfing habits. I'm pretty sure that the lives we see represented on Pinterest are far, far from real. I have a board about dream rooms that I am almost positive I will never, ever come close to replicating by any stretch of the imagination in any real house I own, but look at what good taste I have anyway, won't you? The identity one constructs on Pinterest seems by definition to be aspirational: these are the rooms/crafts/homeschool curricula/photographs/quotations/tasty treats with which I would surround myself, given limitless resources and time and, I would argue, often a completely different personality. Now, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to have a place where you can be the person you wish you were, but I do think that the social networking parts of Pinterest can lead to users feeling inadequate about their own lives as they peruse the completely fictional lives of others. In addition, Pinterest also seems to me to be heightening consumerism and heaven knows we don't need anything to help us consume more!
On the other hand, three, I've found that when I just want to decompress a little at the computer, the general Pinterest feed is just about perfect for helping me. I can see links from across the web, all over the place, on one screen. I can flit right past the things that leave no impression on me and head right for those pictures to which I respond for some reason or other. It's as if the work of curating the web has been done for me...though by whom, I'm not at all sure, since most of what I see is pinned by complete strangers.
However, four, I've found that Pinterest really doesn't work for me, personally, to replace bookmarking websites because of Pinterest's emphasis on pinning pictures. You can only pin an image (and it has be be an image of a certain size and resolution) from any given site. I would much rather pin, you guessed it, passages of text from websites. I most often want to remember and return to something someone wrote and often the kinds of online texts I respond to don't have any pictures to speak of (like my own blog, most of the time!). So they can't be pinned. Which means that, ultimately, Pinterest will only hold my interest for a little while, since the site does something nifty but that piece of niftiness is really kind of irrelevant to me.
Fifth, because there are women pinning most of the time, Pinterest seems to be deeply conflicted. On the one side, there are endless pictures of recipes for ooey, gooey concoctions involving chocolate and caramel and cheesecake and candy bars and peanut butter and what have you. On the other hand, those pictures are invariable followed by pictures of toned women in short shorts and sports bras, sweating through some insanely intense work out that begins with instructions like "100 jumping jacks, 100 crunches, 20 burpees, etc., repeated every day for 21 days to get abs like these!" Or you could just skip all the crazy desserts! The juxtaposition of these opposing lines of thought is jarring.
For now, I'm putting aside my ambivalence and have fun looking at pictures of sumptuous salads, fabulous green coats, enviably neat laundry rooms, snarkily captioned pictures of pets, quasi-inspirational quotations, and impossible crafts.