Saturday, February 2, 2013

On Pinterest & Addictions

I have been afraid to share this because sometimes people in real-life talk to me about my blog posts, and I'm afraid they'll give me tips on how to "cure myself." The truth is, I know what I need to do, I just need to DO it. On my own. I am my own greatest critic and usually I'm the most effective person at motivating myself too. In the past few days, since I've written this (but not shared it), I've struggled with how people will think of me, but I've also seen several blog posts and articles about moms who work (and a lot of the time I spend on the computer isn't just messing around) and moms who know that sometimes you just need to turn the internet off for a while, and I feel less like I'm "addicted" and more that I'm struggling to balance modern life with old-school values, like many, many others. It's hard. So, here's what I wrote; please be gracious with me if we end up talking about it. 


The fact that I feel any need to defend my love of Pinterest is proof enough that I am chained to it. I have Pinterest rabies. My defense of Pinterest is obviously part frantic, "don't take this away from me!!" I have seriously worried/created a scenario in my head in which I force myself to answer, "what if it went away? Which pins would I save to my hard drive if I only had a few hours?" "I'm an adult, I would live if it went away, I could rebuild my life." Can i leave it for a few days? Yes. Can I not think about it? Yes. But I still feel swiss-cheese holes in my heart when I get back on after a few days and i can tell there are pins in my feed that I won't be able to see because they've fallen off the cliff of 500+. I have this bizarre need to be as caught up as possible with all feeds - I feel like I must browse every Facebook post until I see ones I've seen before, and the same with Pinterest and Blogger. To make matters worse, I find myself mindlessly trolling sometimes (and God knows I don't have a lot of time in my life for mindless anything right now - though sometimes it's needed), and then later I end up asking myself why I even pinned such and such a thing? 

My reason for writing this was originally an open letter to the fabulous ladies of the PopStuff podcast (free on iTunes) in reply to their premise that Pinterest can stifle creativity. Then, upon thinking about what I would say in response, I began a downward spiral of self-searching. Downward in the sense that I started feeling kind of terrible as I thought harder about the fact that I struggle with internet addiction (of which Pinterest is only a part), but upward (can you spiral upward??) in that it's good for me to confront this. This started out as a funny, self-deprecating essay on why I'm about to reach the 10,000 pin mark (don't judge, some people have 100,000+), and became more serious as I actually verbalized the fact that sometimes I spend too much time on my computer and it takes away time from my husband and son and other things that are more important. A lot of ladies joke about being "addicted" to Pinterest, and I, for one, know how much it can suck you in, but there really does come a point when being addicted to something isn't cool anymore. 

So, here I am declaring that I need to make some changes. But at the same time, I will also defend my continued [though hopefully less insane] use of Pinterest. In general, I agree with Tracy and Holly of PopStuff that Pinterest can stifle creativity (depending on how you define creativity) in that it if you're going there for ideas on something to make, you may end up simply making a culmination of several other people's ideas, and that's not purely creative. But I have mixed feelings about this. 

Is there any such thing as pure inspiration? One of my more "enlightened" moments in school was when it occurred to me that one can not possibly think of anything without there being a context from which that thought came from. We do not have new ideas, we only have ideas that build on old ideas. Even if we create something completely opposite from what has been done before, it's still the antithesis of an existing idea, and therefore has roots in something that is not our own. But I think that's okay. 

Still, there is a difference between a-not-truly-new-idea and copying (even if that is "the highest form of flattery"). I do not feel guilty of using Pinterest to glom together over-used projects into a giant seen-everywhere project, but then again, I do not use Pinterest for project ideas very often. I DO use it to source images for ideas I had "on my own," particularly when it comes to mapping out a painting. I'll often have an idea of elements that I want to include in my painting, but unlike Jonas, am totally unable to see a realistic life-like image in my head (let alone sketch one), so I make a board of inspiration images to help me get the rights shapes, and use that as a foundation for whatever "my" idea was.

The one thing I can think of that I really did steal from the web  - though I originally saw it on a blog, and only later did it become widely pinnned - was the gold plastic animal trend for party favors at our wedding. And don't get me wrong, I did and do dearly love them and they were a huge hit, but I have felt a small pang upon seeing them in several weddings since ours when I tried hard to make ours a one-of-a-kind event. I get that weddings aren't about being different than everyone else, and if we enjoyed it, who cares if other people use the same elements, but to me, that situation is a good reminder not to go around copying everything you see on Pinterest if you wish to stand out in any way. 

As a brief aside, because I think it loosely pertains, I believe that if you share something on the internet, you're welcoming other people to take it and change it, and even abuse it on occasions. I try my best to keep the original creator's name on their work when I borrow or use something, and I hope others do the same for my work, but the nature of the internet - including Pinterest - really fosters idea sharing. 

That being said, I do believe it is okay to copy things! I know that the "is this even creative?" debate has mainly to do with making things, and I'm pretty on board with not thinking it's great to duplicate other people's work, but I also appreciate having an idea started for me sometimes and just enjoying not working from the ground up by myself all the time. If I'm going to call something my work or my art, I try not to make it a mash-up of other people's work, but apart from art, I just copy people all day to my heart's content. The cleaning tips, ideas on how to keep your kids entertained (believe me, that is a full time job), recipes - I'm so grateful that someone else has figured all that out and now I get to steal it. Not that I don't discover ways of my own to play with Ishmael, and anyone who eats at our house pretty much knows I didn't exactly follow the recipe.

On another side note, I often hear the term "curating" associated with Pinterest, and that kind of is a big function of Pinterest, but I heard a criticism of that that has stuck with me, even if it is kind of pretentious  I've been image-obsessed since childhood and I'm also a chronic list-maker. Also, a voracious reader and lover of good film. Also, I love fine art, but less so making fine art all the time. All these things led me to the brilliant idea of... "I should be a museum curator!" (and/or critic; I mean, what could be better than getting paid to state your opinion about your experience of handling things you adore?)  I started googling the heck out of how to go about studying that or breaking into the scene, only to find someone's scathing criticism of everyone suddenly thinking they would be a good curator, probably thanks to Pinterest. While I agree with Holly and Tracy that everyone can be creative, I do think there is such a thing as "having an eye" and I hope I'm not totally full of myself to believe that I could actually be good at curating in a professional way, but I totally feel for people (artists in particular) in a world where many people think they could be great at anything. I'm glad that people have good self esteem, but I also realize that people have different strengths. So, until someone offers me a million-dollar-job-offer to make their life look pretty, I'm more of a plain old pinner than a curator. 

So why did I join Pinterest and what do I think it's best features are? Well, even before Pinterest, I still collected a ton of pictures, but I just saved them to my computer and put them in folders or bookmarked them in my browser (for the less visual things I wanted to remember). It was also kind of an addiction then, but I think my compulsion to do this isn't all bad. Despite its purpose as a social website, I mostly use Pinterest to organize things for my own benefit. However, I do use it to brainstorm with other people about projects we're collaborating on (though I've never before used the multiple-curator option), which is handy! You can even make secret boards if you're planning a surprise party or something else you wish not to be available to all eyes. Sometimes I get sucked into feeling guilty for not making the things I pin (if they are of the DIY type), but I just have to remind myself that a) that's not how I use Pinterest and b) 75% of the things I've tried to make at Pinterest's behest have totally failed (enter, Pintrosity and Pinterest You Are Drunk). 
  • I pin because I appreciate other people's ideas
  • I am a lover of beauty. I just love pretty pictures. Ask my mom, this is hardwired in me. 
  • I love being able to satiate my desire to buy things by just looking at them and pinning them to my fantasy life instead. 
  • I like to keep track of my ideas about what to see when I travel and where to eat on dates.
  • It's also a good place for me to store articles that I may want to site in a blog post of my own, or tutorials on graphics or layout for this blog. 
  • One of my all time favorite uses of Pinterest is keeping a visual year-round gift idea list, complete with links to the product for when the next birthday or holiday comes up. 
  • It's a cookbook of recipes I've tried, complete with my notes on how I like them changed, accessible from anywhere. 

Pinterest is actually an incredibly useful and versatile tool. I have boards full of trigger ideas/images for a film I'd like to make some day, some sort of shop that Jonas and I might open as a later career, even activities that I'd like to engage in with a community of people in the physical world (haha). I guess I balance it out with boards about parties I'll never host, clothes I can't afford, and pretty people I've never met. I realize that those are all in the future tense, which leads me to some tips about how to use Pinterest more practically. 

  • Clean out your boards from time to time. Delete things you no longer like, have no use for, or you can honestly tell yourself you'll never use. Delete duplicates. 
  • If you're browsing a huge board and you scroll far enough down that you're prompted to "see more," don't you click that button! 
  • Try not to look at the boards Pinterest suggests to you as having similar taste to yours, including when you pin an image and it shows you what other boards people have pinned that same pin to.
  • Go through your pins occasionally and open some of them in tabs, then leave them open until you've put them into action. 
  • Unfollow pinners and boards you don't like or that don't match your style! Even if they're your friends. Just as with Facebook, it's not worth getting upset with real people over their ridiculous (or time-sucking) behavior online.
And one final list, ways that I think Pinterest could be improved:
  • I wish you could search key terms within all your own pins (I forget which board I posted things to sometimes). 
  • A rating system for pins you've attempted to make/experience, etc. 
  • A way to search all of Pinterest by color (Polyvore and Etsy have this feature, and I heart it). 
  • More situations in which a drag & drop feature is available. 
  • A way to jump directly to the featured image for the board. 
On the broader subject of internet addiction, I know we hear this all the time, but we live in an age filled with many, many attention grabbing things, and many of my interests and responsibilities - writing, socializing, image-browsing, TV-watching, reading the news, shopping, music, school, work - are facilitated by the internet or computers. I went to high school online, and several of my ex-boyfriends were almost exclusively on-line relationships. My parents had to pry my spindly little fingers off the keyboard when I was a kid. I think it started as curiosity and wonder at what doors the internet could open, and was fueled by loneliness from living in a very isolated region of the world. Learning to express myself in writing resulted in me growing to be much more outgoing online than I was in person, and I think I've even become more outgoing in person as a result of being outgoing online, where I used to feel more comfortable. 

While none of that is inherently bad, my parents still used to limit my time online (which I positively loathed and always tried to justify disobeying). Yet here I am, as an adult, realizing that I need to start limiting myself, because investing in my family is my top priority, and they shouldn't suffer as I pursue my own interests. I know that it's okay to take me-time sometimes (and honestly, on my days off, a 3-month old is pretty happy just to lay next to me with periodic tickling for a long time), but I also know that the way I use my time in general needs some tweaking (not least because Ishmael will learn from me). It takes effort for me to force myself to schedule reading a real book, or taking a walk outside, and when I realize I've spent all day doing various things on the computer and Jonas is about to get home, I run around frantically doing chores, which is oddly effective, in that I often get a lot done in a short amount of time, but it still makes me feel silly. 

Often, Pinterest is my therapy after a trying day, but on other occasions, it has also caused me to stress out because I get overwhelmed with all the users and boards (with thousands of pins) that I feel that I-must-experience-this-in-its-entirety urge to look through. I have that manic desire in non-electronic areas of my life too, so I try not to feel guilty about things that are valid parts of my personality.

Having just proof-read through this post, this whole thing even being an issue seems so ludicrous, but isn't that what addiction is? It is justified by the user and just a bonkers idea to everyone else. I don't want to throw around the term "addiction" when I can handle myself with maturity and Pinterest isn't substance abuse, but I do think there is merit in examining our habits from time to time and realigning ourselves with whatever lifestyle we're striving for. On the bright side, I really have eased up on my Pinterest rabies lately (or as Hannah & Kelty put it, pocrasti-pinning), now it's just a matter of juggling and toning down everything else as well. [pictured pins: 1, 2]


  1. Well said, all of it. It's a ludicrocity I can relate too.

    1. Thank you so much!
      P.S. I wish you would start blogging again, I miss it. It always made me laugh out loud.


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