For the longest time, I felt like the only anti-Pinterest blogger out there. Whenever I tweeted anything negative, people were taken aback by my attitude. But, in the last few months, Pinterest got a lot of mainstream press. And with that came some constructive (and some not-so-constructive) criticism and a seemingly sudden ramp-up of negative feeling.
My own feelings towards Pinterest are extremely personal. They reflect how I consume content and what I find meaningful in the world. They reflect the same sentiment that I apply to blogging, to magazines, to media across the board – a desire for something substantive, reflective and inspiring in an actionable way. I don't disagree with the louder objections to Pinterest, but it’s not the heart of the matter for me personally. This is a long post, but I want to try to explain myself better because I’ve been asked about this a lot:
Copyright is the objection most people lead with right now (read about it here and here). As I mentioned on Friday, for me that's an internet issue we’ll always be catching up to. Sure, Pinterest enables sharing of non-credited images and has some iffy small print to protect itself. I agree they should fix that. But Pinterest is just the flavor of the year and I guarantee this issue will follow users to the next social media tool, and the one after that too.
I also understand the shocked reaction from some Pinterest users when this issue is flagged. They’re benignly collecting images to inspire a reno or a wedding and all of a sudden being yelled at by bloggers. Many are just using Pinterest as a sorting tool, they’re not thinking of themselves as content-creators or thinking of their boards as public-facing content. That said, of course, credits should be required and that process should be better enabled and upheld.
2. Hoarding versus inspiring
I believe that inspiration that is useful, that is acted upon, is a finite thing. I realized at the start of the year that I’d got into a habit of buying lots of food magazines. And that most of those food magazines never actually inspired me to try a new recipe. They hypothetically inspired me. In that moment, I thought, ooh I’d love to try that. But then before I ever got round to it, another magazine was on my coffee table and the same thing recurred.
I remember when I was young and magazines were like a rare treat. I eked every last bit of information out of each issue. I pored over every photo. I savoured it all and it inspired decisions, experiments, conversations and purchases. When there’s too much inspiration I feel like we detach it from action. We collect for the sake of collecting. And I believe that inspiration that doesn’t actually inspire action can only make you feel bad; a gap opens up between all the things that inspire you and your own life. I’m very much against women feeling shitty and inadequate because of over-styled images. Collecting inspiration that's never followed through on just seems like a negative cycle to me.
3. Images without context
It's no secret that I care about words. Of course, I understand that visuals are important in blogging and I too enjoy a beautiful image, a creative collage – both as a maker and as a user. But there’s so much prettiness out there that unless it has something substantive attached to it, I quickly glaze over. Blogs like Anabela’s and Hila’s (to single out just two) hit me at more than one level. There’s a whole lot of beauty, but there’s real substance, deep expression too. I love that marriage.
Hila has written about what gets lost when images are taken out of their context, the potential pain it causes. On a very old post (which I have since removed) I shared a picture of my Mum holding my baby brother. Paul died when I was four. And my post was about how that experience defined my whole childhood, how it changed our entire family dynamic, about how that still reverberates through my life. I recently saw that picture of Paul on Pinterest with the comment "adorable". Not unkind at all. But I'm sure you can imagine how I felt seeing this very personal post reduced to cute-fodder.
I believe good blogs reflect a whole person. Sometimes they’re vulnerable, angry, opinionated, romantic, silly, materialistic – the whole gamut. I love that blogs are not limited to just being about fashion or books, decor or editorials. We’re all so complex and I feel like traditional women’s media makes us choose between being smart or being pretty (I wrote before about how it was difficult when I was young for me to reconcile that I loved both literature and magazines). But blogs really let me express all of it.
When I see this page, however, I feel like all of that richness dissipates. It boils my blog down to all the things I actually hope my blog is not. And it makes me feel bad then, that this and only this is the take-away for some people. That is not my goal or the content that I want to contribute to the world.
Those who know me online and in real life, know I’m pretty much the most emotionally open person in the world. Heart on sleeve. Where I'm less open is with my concrete life; my home, my friends, my own appearance. I don't like to style and pose. I might share a vignette or limited view of my apartment here and there, but I would never let my home be featured in a magazine. This may sound hypocritical, because I love to look at those pictures. But I don’t see my own life objectively. It’s an intimate thing for me to share even a limited view of my home. I’ve only put one photo of myself online in the last two years.
When I do share something like that, I fool myself into thinking I'm sharing with the small and intimate group of readers who gather here. I’m not ready for those images to be disseminated across Pinterest, commented and critiqued by the rabid crowd. It hurts me to see my own apartment on Pinterest. Even when the comment is positive, I don’t like it. I know this is a complex reaction; that it might betray something I need to get over. But it really feels objectifying to be looked at like that.
As I said, my reasons for disliking Pinterest are very personal ones. Last week, I installed the pin-blocker on my blog. I know it won’t work. I know it will mean my images go onto Pinterest without credits. But I want to send the message that sharing something online should not necessarily mean limitless sharing. I'm over the "you put it on the internet, so suck it up" attitude. I think we need degrees of privacy online, people should be able to share something without having to give up all their rights entirely.
I don’t blame Pinterest for all of this… they’re just the latest manifestation. And, in fact, I think they have an opportunity to really address some of those privacy / sharing options, to build a structured environment that allows people to set limits, to even allow completely private boards. So, I’m ending on a positive note – one that is hopeful that conscientious communities can exist, that products can be built that foster a more reflective form of sharing and inspiring.