Digital World

If you’re one of the million+ who have signed up to Pinterest in the past few months, you know about the eye candy. The phenomenal growth is due to women (80% of the present participants) who are resonating with what is essentially online scrapbooking.

It’s the new social media hula hoop, with thoughtful reporters and marketing execs twittering away about the possibilities. Sandra M. Jones of the Chicago Tribune described it on Feb. 5th this way: “The site is in essence an idea factory, where individuals create their own set of virtual display boards, ‘pin’ photos of things that inspire them and share them with friends and followers.”

It takes about a day to sign up and get the invitation, then you just stumble around websites and link photos & graphs & stuff. Here’s an example of its effect on women: “I was going to be productive today but then I got on Pinterest” is one of the “pins” that Deb Thompson, (who has 519 followers) pinned to her “Words Words Words” board.

The Pinterest mission is unabashedly focused on personal pastimes: “Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.” Like recipes, wedding ideas, & shoe styles. Amanda DiSilvestro of suggests that businesses would be wise to use it for visibility, but also allow interaction with their products. She said: “People not only have the ability to pin things they see onto their Pinterest boards, but they can comment on photos, like photos, and follow certain subjects or certain people. In other words, the site has a definitely social media feel.”

Then there are the rest of us who just don’t frequent craft stores. One of my market research colleagues recently said: “Oh no! One more platform…” At first I dismissed it as another vanity site, and was frankly uncomfortable spending my time gliding through blithe images of fancy. I felt like a Doberman in a group of French poodles – too much on dessert and no red meat. Then I started using it, just pinning a few of my personal favorites and saw a stranger give me my first “repin” from an NPR photo featuring all the books written about Abe Lincoln. I started thinking that just because it’s full of flowers and hairstyles doesn’t mean I couldn’t push my own agenda.

A logical use would be politics. Search for the candidates, like Ron Paul, and get a lot of videos, photos, yard signs and little-known facts, such as: “Ron Paul was the first and only person to hit a home run on the Congressional baseball team“ (courtesy Amanda Gann). When you search terms like “Democrats” “Republicans” and “Syria”, the photos, graphics and comments take you to thoughts and places you wouldn’t expect. Not so much like Google, which links to the factoids and top stories. For Syria, you can scroll through photos of ancient buildings, smiling children, flora, fauna and a bloodied button that says “Freedom for Syria”.

There doesn’t seem to be any censoring going on. I’m not sure if that’s important, but it is a stark contrast to what’s going on elsewhere. It certainly makes me wonder how this new online toy will mutate. Here’s my link: What do you think?

Photos from Pinterest posts.
Suz Korbel

Susan Korbel

Graduating in '71 from Cornell gave me a few unencumbered years of protesting, followed by 4 happy hipster grad student/worker years at U of Michigan, completing a Ph.D. in public administration. Followed a comedian to San Francisco, then my heart to Austin Texas to learn the TV business, dabbled in hot&heavy politics in DC, and returned to Austin & San Antonio, Texas to hone my political/media skills. I make my money conducting consumer and political opinion studies.

One Comment
  1. Though I’m one of those women who can lose a couple hours browsing on Pinterest, I have mixed feelings about the site.  You’re right about the eye candy; the closeup photographs are almost pornographically tantalizing: exotic eye makeup that glitters; pastel cupcake frostings that swirl invitingly;  luxuriant, glossy hair styles of cascading curls; engagement rings that showcase the brilliant glitter of huge diamonds; bridal gowns that look like gauzy confections.  Even the homier aspects of the site–the hand- stitched quilts, fresh fruit jams, the homemade Christmas ornaments–are brightly colored and alluring.   A mark of success on the site is how many times one’s pinned up photo is “liked” or “re-pinned,” so a picture  is copied by dozens of others–like a hall of mutually reflecting mirrors.  Thus, Pinterest encourages not originality and creativity, but imitation.  It encourages consumption–both physical and economic.  Reactions to a picture are usually: “I want”; “Where can I buy this?”; or “I’m going to do this too!”  And pics of rich, calorie-dense lasagnas or candy bar cakes are often placed right next to photos of thin, wispy girls, yet no one seems to notice the schizophrenia of this, the false promise inherent in many postings.   Yeah, I know I sound like a curmudgeon.  Maybe it’s because I can see through the gauzy curtain to what’s behind it, or maybe I’m cranky because even though I don’t eat the candy bar cupcake, I’m still not thin and wispy and the glittery eye shadow would make me look like a circus clown.  Or maybe I just don’t like the stereotyped image of American womanhood I see in much of the site.  You, Ms. Korbel, clearly go there for more substantive reasons, and I say more power to you.

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