Pinterest: Tips and Thoughts

Pinterest. What’s it all about? For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a website that allows you to create online “boards” on which to “pin” images/links/articles. There is no limit to how much you can pin, you can pin away to your heart’s content, or until your hands seize up in revolt in my case! It’s a medium for organizing crafts, quotes, recipes, how to’s, life “hacks”, deep thoughts, fashion, movie stars, funny TV screen caps, for pinning hundreds of pictures of puppies and Johnny Depp if that’s your bag (ahem, just saying).

You can write a short or long description of your pin, why you like it, ideally describing what the pin contains for others searching for said subject, or you can merely leave the attached description which someone else wrote which you may or may not agree with but are simply too lazy to change as you are VERY BUSY PINNING AND OH LOOK AT THAT PITBULL PUPPY WEARING A CHRISTMAS SWEATER!!

Pinterest is like a pinball machine of visual stimulation. It’s a great alternative shop front for crafters or artisans, photographers and the like. Lots of Etsy sellers have boards or whole accounts devoted to hawking their wares, which is an added incentive for anyone with an online business. In the current visually stimulated style of blogging I see plenty of Lifestyle blogs recreating their stuff on Pinterest. It's one of the most popular websites for re-directing "flow" to outside sites.

Mostly for me though, Pinterest is just a bit of mindless escapism. I enjoy pinning from my phone as it’s much faster than my PC to scroll through my feed, though I often end up pinning to the wrong board this way and end up re-pinning as we can't have potato salad in the fashion board now can we! Pinterest isn't particularly interactive, once in a while someone may comment on a pin, but in general in my experience it’s just a sort of visual veg out nirvana. I think perhaps people go there to escape the social interactive burnout of Facebook, the often impersonal nature of Twitter. Pinterest is a place where self-expression has no fear of judgement or backlash, where you don’t put up a funny joke for a reaction, but simply just to share/giggle to yourself. It’s an introvert’s paradise, basically. There are of course a few pitfalls and minor annoyances (personal to me of course), which even at my advanced/pinning for over a year now phase I am just starting to figure out. Below I list a few that come to mind.

Bun-heads: One thing that perplexes me on the site is the bounty of photos of very thin girls in giant sweaters and artfully messy topknots staring into the distance, leggings-clad legs bowed. They are often standing in the snow, looking so cold, so thin! These I presume are meant to be fashion-y, but I just find their sheer sameness tedious – if they are pro-ana that is yucky (and I think that exists to a potentially unhealthy extent onsite), but there is a sort of generic bland “perfect girl” look that people seem to enjoy pinning over and over again like weird Marcia Brady zombies. I try to avoid following these boards and if I start seeing them I either unfollow the person or the board, but still a few filter through. It’s like people can’t help themselves from pinning boringly bland identikit pseudo-cozy fashion pics? I don't know, it’s hard to explain!

I will follow: On that note, it is worth mentioning be careful who you follow when you first join (and thereafter). At first it seems like a polite thing to follow back anyone who doesn’t seem too weird/opposite end of your taste spectrum, but exercise caution. Look at their boards, not just the profile Pinterest shows you. Do they have half a dozen "Religion is my Religion" boards, or numerous “Fitness Freak Until I Die“ boards? Are they very big Adam Sandler fans? To each their own, but, in short, anything that you don’t particularly want to see crop up time and time again on your feed? Maybe they have a nice travel or decorating board, and you can just follow that.

Following individual boards is my number one tip for Pinterest following I guess, it really does help to weed out things from your feed which are not relevant or interesting to you. Of course occasionally you may stumble across someone whose boards are like all totally amazing and you secretly want to be their Pinterest best friend so you follow them all wholeheartedly and re-pin enough so that they know you love their stuff but not so much that they think you are a stalker/ideas thief. Which leads to…

Pinterest pinning etiquette: Pins "belong" to no one really, it’s the whole point*. Of course if you do go to the trouble of pinning things from outside the site, you may feel a tiny bit more creatively invested. The pins of mine that I pinned myself on obscure-ish subjects, with long written descriptions, do feel slightly more “personal”. Because while it’s largely a visual medium, you are sharing your thoughts for people to pluck and recycle out of the ether. I think Pinterest could maybe do a better job with making the descriptions section more personalized – if you wish to use it, it should be attributed or something, but maybe that’s just the writer in me.

It’s not like my fifty word witticisms on Whit Stillman are particularly valuable, but they are mine. The same goes for the handful of personal photos (just landscapes/holiday shots) I uploaded without thinking about or signature marking – again they have no real value, but I do feel slightly weird when people re-pin them (guess I could always delete them, doh!). Most people behave quite well on the site, the only time I become irked is when someone pins say, an entire board of mine without bothering to follow it – that does seem a bit rude to me. While sometimes I pin numerous pins from one person, I usually make an effort to draw upon the suggested pins that come up as equally, and to not just pillage individual boards. It’s kind of lazy to just attack someone else’s board like a thirsty vampire. Manners, Pinners!

Dead links: SO many. Also occasional spam. Mostly attached to recipes or articles, which is annoying. Pinterest does go stagnant after a while, and if you’re not careful you start to see the same pins over and over again – when this happens broaden you parameters, who you follow, get creative. I think the site could be tidied up quite a bit in terms of content. There is an awful lot of overlap, is it really necessary to have a thousand versions of the same pin?

Search facility: Recently changed, and broken down in to separate block phrasing, kind of weird. While slightly better than it was, it’s not the best at bringing up relevant results if you are looking for something remotely obscure in my experience. Also the search facility on my phone is fairly useless; things that I know would get results on the PC get none on the phone.

THE WEDDING PLANNER!: Once in a while I have a peep into the mad mad world of wedding planning on Pinterest – I try not to follow any, but sometimes you stumble across a board (or ten) that grabs your attention. I mean, there are people who have boards not for themselves…but for their friend, who may or may not be getting married next year…or their as yet to be born daughter, because Momma’s gotta start early! It is just a whole other level of wedding planning insanity, and I don’t understand any of it. Something about the site makes people go even more gaga for weddings (and party planning in general). They are harming no one, but they do clog up the site if you're not careful to avoid them.

Which is not to say that while perusing them I did not get sucked in, I may have started a“Flowers” (cough – BOUQUET) board. Bouquets are pretty, and there are endless arrays! From deep dark woodland posies to trailing pink orchids…sigh. Why do we only get a few in our lifetime if we’re lucky? Why can’t we all be like Duchess Kate/The Queen and get bouquets of flowers everywhere we go?! It’s not fair, I say! (ahem…Pinterest can induce a form of temporary insanity it must be said).

Homogeneous Profiles: One last thing that I wish Pinterest would do is allow for slightly more personalized profiles – no I don’t need a flowery background (although…), but I do wish we could arrange boards in a more interesting way/the order we choose. The grid layout is a bit boringly stark, and I kind of wish we could arrange the pins themselves within the boards. But then again...maybe it's for the best. I guess it could become a bit messy and then you have a Myspace situation on your hands.


I very much hope the commercial side doesn't throw off the balance in the future and spoil everyone’s fun. There are some pretty obvious fake accounts and spammy things happening already, but in general they are not too intrusive. It will be interesting to see how it progresses as they try to monetize it. I just hope it doesn't lose its charm, as it is a haven for those who may find other forms of social media draining. Of course like any virtual reality it is best to exercise moderation, I don’t visit EVERY day, and try to limit myself to 30 minutes or so because it can be a total time suck. It’s a great distraction from the daily grind if you require one.

In general I am a fan of Pinterest, yes it can be a bit samey/generic aspirational lifestyle-ish if you let it, but if you put a little bit of research into finding things that really interest you it is a fairly bottomless well of information and inspiration. For disorganized types like me it presents a challenge, to organize things in such a way so as they seem cohesive (I struggle with this, and admire people who have a board for every possible sub-type, but I simply don’t have the will for it). It is great for practical go-getters who need lists and exercise charts, as well as dreamers who simply need to muse for a bit. It’s a world wide web wonderland whose success lies in the ability to make of it what you will.

p.s. As a fairly limited cook/crafter, the Pinterest "fails" articles never cease to amuse me! :-)

p.p.s. Annie Hall (erm I mean Diane Keaton!) is on Pinterest, so it must be cool!

* The copyright issue is a complex one of which I have only a tenuous grasp. For instance, I know not to use my "pinned" images on my blog, not to pin from sites that haven't granted permission, etc. But the laws become ever more tenuous onsite, and while Pinterest is certainly not alone in this,it is something I feel we as users need to educate ourselves on.

No comments