Pinterest on Steroids: An Honest Look at Pin Culture

14 Oct

I’m sure many of you have discovered the delight that is Pinterest.  Personally, I believe this simple Web site has revolutionized my organizational skills.  I make my shopping list off of my recipe folder, I actually do projects that I save because I remember where I put them, and I feel like I am prepared to decorate my future home (should I ever have money).  However, I think all of us are aware that Pinterest is also a wish world full of the unlikely and the straight-up imaginary.  On Pinterest, people (and by people, I mean women) begin to imagine themselves as quirky, deep, and wildly creative just from putting an idea for a non-existent wedding in a folder named something wistful like “Happy Ever After . . . Someday.”  I say this somewhat jokingly, but I would bet big money that that folder name exists, and I am sad for the person who made it.  The truth is, while Pinterest is a great tool, it also gives women delusions of grandeur . . . or at least delusions that they are Zooey Deschanel.

To help break us out of the illusion (because let’s face it, I am also guilty of being in the state of Pinphoria) I have broken Pinterest pins down into four categories: Real Life, Wishful Life, Barf, & ???.  I think if you are honest with yourself, you can break down any one of your own pins into one of these categories.  To help flesh out said categories, I have some examples here to share with you.  Fair warning: I am going to be brutally honest about some of these examples, and I may have gone a little overboard in some categories (take a guess as to which).  However, I think the Pinterest world needs a reality check, so bear with me.

Real Life

For obvious reasons, I don’t think I have to give too many examples in this category.  “Real Life” pins are the ones that can actually be used later by the person who pinned them.  These pins are an honest attempt to make one’s life better, and to get one step closer to becoming Martha Stewart (without being a plastic headcase).  A good example is the picture below:

This is a picture of a dish that I will definitely make.  It actually links to the same recipe that my aunt gave me (but I lost the recipe card).  She makes it every year at Thanksgiving, and since I don’t plan on going home for Thanksgiving, I will be making it myself using this recipe.  If you don’t follow me on Pinterest, you should start and take this recipe from me.  It’s perfect for T-Giving Day gluttony.

Another kind of Real Life pin that I love are the ones that strive to do what I am doing here: letting people know that they are not the model/fashion icon/genius cook and designer/whimsical girl-next-door they think they are.  These pins give realistic expectations, and at the end of the day, they probably make everyone feel better about not being perfect:

It’s that good, life-affirming kind of reality.  However, I understand that we all need to have dreams and aspirations, and Pinterest is an excellent little outlet for them.  For, as the pin says:

Which perfectly segues into the category of . . .

Wishful Life

Though there is a danger of going overboard in this category, I feel that in small doses it can give a Pinterest user a lot of satisfaction.  There are some things that I like to imagine myself having that I know I will never have, and that’s okay.  These pins are just there for a bit o’ happiness (yes that is a title of one of my folders).  Here are some examples for you.

This certainly isn’t the most extreme example, but I like to be honest with myself.  While I love the idea of this button globe, I know it’s not going to happen unless I get really lucky at either a Goodwill or a high-end knick knack store (I can see this globe being in either place).  I’m certainly not going to make it myself, so I’ll leave it to fate to throw this awesome piece of decor in my path.

In spite of some of the crud I see on Pinterest (which I’ll get to soon) there are some pins that truly want to be helpful, but just aren’t.  Case and point: any pin having to do with hairstyles.  Maybe it’s because I’m terrible at doing my own hair, but I don’t think a photobooth-style picture of steps in a hair-doing process is going to help me.  Mostly these pins just make me angry that there are middle schoolers out there who are more skilled than I am at making their hair look professionally done.  They also irk me when they jump from one step to another maddeningly far-off step.  I’ll cite the example below: how did we get from curling hair, to the hair suddenly being a twisty-braidy thing??  What kind of sorcery went into the process of making it look so “trying without looking like I tried?”  It’s so frustrating, but you want it.

Another section of this category are the pins of things that likely exist somewhere, just not in your world.  These are the pins of things that we would like to have if we had five homes, and one of them was decorated by a designer who was given the prompt, “Think of the pimped double-decker bus from the Spice Girls movie, and just let your mind explode from there.”  See below . . .

I don’t think I even want a home that has these stairs, but I am uncomfortable being in a world where they don’t exist.  They need to happen somewhere, so I will repin them and give them life.

Everyone has imaginary selves, the people you wish you were and maybe are to some extent, but not exactly.  Case and point: I wish I was the kind of girl who could wear this outfit and totally rock it:

But I can’t.  At least not on a daily basis.  There may be a time in my life when I would wear this (clubbing in London, perhaps?) but the situations are few and far between.  On a side note, I’m realizing that my wishful world has a lot more sparkles than I would have guessed.

While on Pinterest, you may find yourself repinning things that you think are helpful to you, but are so contrary to your own nature that they really don’t make sense.  Often these pins are meant to help you be more well-rounded and happier, but really they’re just disappointments waiting to happen.  Like this “cake” made out of fruit . . .

Good for you?  Yes.  Looks cute?  Sure.  Are you incredibly sad that it’s not actually a cake?  Of course you are, you lying pretender to healthiness.  Go make a cake and stop trying to be better than everyone.

Finally, there are the “just out of reach” pins.  These things are doable, but they won’t turn out how you want them.  These pretty champagne jello shots are a nice example:

Sure, you can make them and they will likely taste great, but let’s be honest: you are going to make them in Dixie cups with Toy Story characters on them, and you and your friends are going to dig them out with your fingers before they are fully set.  Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.


There are some things on Pinterest that go one iota (or a million) past the “wishing” category.  These are the pins that I see people putting up in earnest, and I get this quick flash of nausea/disdain/judgy-ness.  Feel free to dream folks, but let’s not get douchy about it.  I think you’ll understand what I’m getting at when you see the pins that I found.  Exhibit A:

Okay, to be fair, someone may actually want this for their beach wedding shoe but, whhhhy?  I know you saw Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde five dozen times, but that doesn’t mean you should copy Elle Woods’s idea of great footwear.  Are you older than four?  Then take that pin down, a.s.a.p.

Ideas for photos are a great thing to put up on Pinterest.  I do it a lot, and it really helped when I photographed a friend’s wedding last month.  However, some photo ideas are, how should I say this?  Garbage.  See evidence:

Let me start with the first one and work my way down.  When I have a family, I don’t want our photographs to be confused with a poster in a science classroom that teaches high schoolers about evolution or genetics.  As for the girl on the beach who oh-so-sweetly and flexibly has a heart behind her naked back: get over yourself.  Let’s pause at the sexy couple on the beach who look like a cover of one of those trashy romance novels that Kenz and I are so fond of.  I love giggling at it, but sadly someone (who I don’t know) did pin this for a “beach wedding” picture idea.  Not because she was having a beach wedding, but because, you know, she might have one someday when she gets her head unstuck from her . . .  As for the newborn in a knitted Mickey Mouse hat, I am just not a fan of the “molded baby” pose.  There are a plethora of pictures out there with this look, and I just think they are creepy as anything.  I know Anne Geddes would disagree with me, but I can live with that.  Also, I just don’t like Mickey Mouse.  So sue me.  The last picture is just ridiculous.  If you have a picture like this up in your home, I am sorry, but I can never, ever take you seriously.  Anyone who thinks that they need to have a picture with their baby, nearly naked, in the bed they made it in while showing off hubby’s tan line and moobs is just warped beyond help.  Sorry you had to hear it this way.

Another major section in the Barf category is awful quotes.  I will admit that I am a sucker for a good quote, but notice that I used the word “good.”  I’m in English and love when words are strung together in wonderful and inspiring ways.  So does most of the population, since most people enjoy great song lyrics.  However, Pinterest users can get absolutely crazy with the pseudo-deep crap that makes everyone else groan (unless we are the ones pinning said crap).  Some examples are as follows:

So the first one isn’t necessarily a quote, it’s a statement, and a rather nauseating one at that.  While you may see a statement that makes you think,”Hey, I like that too!  Repin!” I’m busy putting this characterization on the person who pinned it, “Hey everyone!  I just wanted to let you know how beautiful and whimsical I am with this observation. I’m sure I’m the first person who ever thought of this oft-ignored little delight! What a beautiful mind I have.”  I told you this would get judgy.  As for the second graphic, I have to admit that I am a sucker for sections of lyrics and have been known to post them often, I am even a fan of Snow Patrol; however, I loathe this particular song of theirs.  LOATHE. IT.  Maybe it was from the radio overplay, or the fact that the music video very uncreatively featured the lead singer literally just laying around in public spaces and getting in normal people’s way, but I think I dislike this song even more as a pin because the person pinning it is meaning it, presumably, for a significant other and wants it to be “deep,” but it’s not.  It’s one of the worst lyrics to ever hit this planet.  I feel strongly about this.  The third graphic just makes me smile.  Not because I think it really speaks some kind of major truth, but because it is meant to be inspiring, but just sounds like something that Jack Handy would say ala this quote, “I want to make the world safe for our children, but not for our children’s children, because I don’t think children should be having sex.”  Sorry, had to insert that there.  And as for the last quote, well, let’s not get started on Nicholas Sparks.  You can probably guess that the comments I would make would just cause Mr. Sparks to cry himself to sleep every night for the rest of his life.

The last section of the Barf category that I must discuss is the “Seek Professional Help” section.  These are the things that I have to believe people want to do, but I just don’t understand why.  This is an area that goes even further beyond wishful thinking to a place of non-reality that should cause you to be concerned.  I know it’s hard to be original in a world where everything can be shared in a second, but let’s keep our ideas within the bounds of rational thought.  For example, I know you thought it was a wonderfully clever idea to make a sandwich in cake form, but honestly, like the name of this category, it makes me want to projectile vomit just looking at it:

And for those of you who have outlandish ideas of how you will dress your current or future children, you might want to consider how your high fashion aspirations are going to affect how likely it is your kid will get beaten up, or will be moodily reading Sylvia Plath before the age of 10:

And you, Miss Butterfly Bouquet: please see my comments on the first picture in this category.  You too have let your brain rot in the muck and mire of ad nauseum creativity and Legally Blonde.

The category of Barf is also a cycle of madness created by Pinterest.  Do not let yourself be caught in it, lest you fall into a twilight zone of DIY and delusion.


This last category, in my opinion, doesn’t require much thought.  Sometimes we aren’t ambitiously trying to improve our lives or be the most creative person out there.  Sometimes we see stupid, crazy, weird, whatever things and repin them mindlessly.  I’ve done it myself a few times, but when I really took a hard look at my Pinterest home page, I noticed a lot of stuff going on that had no purpose but to just exist.  Some, I suppose, could fall into one of my other categories, but for some reason these pins struck me as particularly arbitrary.

Yes, that is a pineapple made into a discoball.  Why?  Well, why not?

Ideas for nail polish colors and designs are particularly big on Pinterest, and many pins feature nails that can be easily copied; however, I don’t know why anyone would want their finger to look like this unless they were jail cell guard in a castle in the 12th century:

This could go in the Barf category, but I think it’s too random to even fit there:

For anytime you really had to know what a crossbreed of Ariel and Mulan would look like:

I don’t have anything to say about this, but it isn’t for lack of trying or not wanting to:

I couldn’t decide if this should go in the Wishful Life or Barf category.  I think more Wishful than Barf.  It’s another example of someone trying to be creative and just overdoing it to the nth degree.

This happened.

This picture could have gone with the other bad photo ideas, but it struck me that the combination of wedding photo and senior picture was pretty humorous.  “Hey, I’m a bride, but I also play the violin.  Don’t try to label me as just one thing.”

And there you have it.  You now have a more realistic outlook on the Pinterest world.  Now go forth, dear friend, and pin away!  But please, pin responsibly.


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