Pinterest: digital identity, Stepford Wives edition

Oh, Pinterest.

You’re so pretty. Everything in your world looks sanitized and inspirational.

Your tagline is “organize and share things you love.” You don’t really mean our sticky kids, though, or the gritty streets of NYC on a February Tuesday. That’s for Flickr and Instagram.

You’re about our aspirations. Your purpose is to make us look like designers of our digital lives: clean, controlled, concise. Maybe quirky, just a little.

“Find your niche,” advises our culture’s contemporary mantra for success: “Me, Inc.” The age of Neoliberalism.

Your niche and passion, Pinterest, is our deep desire for escape from our cluttered excess. We are busy and overloaded, most of us. We’d like to run away and live online, in miniature white screen frames stark and orderly as zen paintings. With witty aphorisms. And tiny, perfect servings of food porn. Your niche is our escapism.

And so you’re booming, Pinterest. Last night, Mashable released a chart showing your rapid rise in user engagement numbers over recent months. You’re, without a doubt, the flavour of the week.

And you look and taste great. Hey, I enjoy a decontextualized serving of digital heart-shaped creme brulee (almost) as much as the next person.

But there’s something terribly Stepford Wives about the whole practice.

We Are What We Share
Sure, it’s just a hobby, a pastime. But you make me nervous, Pinterest. Because when I run away and live online in your world, as opposed to on my blog or on Twitter or even Facebook, I’m crossing into a model of digital identity that’s very shiny, but also scary.

It’s “Me, Inc.” without the, um, “me.”

(No, this isn’t about copyright, Pinterest.  Yes, that’s what everybody’s on about these days, and it appears with good reason: you look to be a bit of a copyright nightmare, with Kafkaesque Terms of Service. According to this lawyer, you have apparently reserved the right to prosecute users for the very copyright violations the Pinterest platform seems designed to support.)

But. My issue isn’t the copyright practices you implicitly encourage.

It’s the identity practices.

Using social media shapes who we are, and how we see ourselves. Social media relies on identity: on handles or names or pseudonyms that represent us and our contributions to the rest of our networks. Pinterest is the same: when I sign up, I get an account, under a name of my choosing. People can see what I share. Being “re-pinned” means what I’m sharing is stuff people want to see.

To our networks, we are what we share.

And on Pinterest, that stuff? Isn’t usually mine. And isn’t encouraged to BE mine.

“Me Inc.” Without the Me
See, the difference between Pinterest and most of the major social media platforms that have come before is that Pinterest is set up to encourage us building identity and reputation primarily on the basis of other people’s content.

On Pinterest, sharing your own work goes against the explicit etiquette of the site. Rule #3: “Avoid Self-Promotion.” Sure, “If there’s a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.”

I can see the collective exhale, here. No wonder Pinterest looks kinda like an Ikea catalogue for every facet of human life. Its express purpose is to free us from the awkwardness of self-expression and keep us safely in the realm of the pre-chewed, the market-filtered.

Admittedly, self-promotion on most online platforms gets tiresome. Hey, look at what I did! What I wrote! What I dug out from my back teeth and photographed in extreme closeup!

On Pinterest, I’d just share pictures of somebody else’s perfect teeth. Whitened. Without the accompanying stories of orthodontistry or the person’s flossing regimen. Probably not even his or her whole face.

Pinterest is exactly what it claims to be: the digital equivalent of the corkboard I had in my bedroom when I was thirteen. I had me some Bono, some Annie Lennox, a dented centrefold of Thriller. I once tore a page out of a hair salon magazine for a grainy shot of the dude who played Robert Scorpio on General Hospital. I may also have clipped the Volkswagen microbus ad out of chapter six of my geometry text. (Sorry, Mr. Murnaghan.)

These things weren’t me. They were who I wanted to be, in a sense, but in the dream realm. My cutout of Robert Scorpio didn’t actually further my path to becoming a soap opera spy, in any sense. My purloined VW image didn’t actually buy me a car. It was just an early form of brand affinity, a way of performing identity and belonging.

That’s the problem, Pinterest. You’re a grownup version of dress-up, of playing cotton-candy princesses. It’s fun. Play is healthy. But when we build broadly networked aspects of our public selves based largely on these tickle-trunk identities? Especially with stuff that we’ve lifted finders-keepers-style from other people’s equally aspirational magpie nests? We may eventually find ourselves with the identity equivalent of tooth decay.

Because make no mistake: the way social media works, our Pinterest practices ARE shaping our digital identities.

Augmented Reality: The Blurring of Offline & Online Worlds
Social media’s promise is that of an augmented reality: one wherein physical and virtual combine to create a blurring between offline and online.

Most of us who use Facebook or Twitter already live in some version of this reality; our networks of friends live both inside and outside the computer.

By extension, so does our identity, and theirs: we know and understand each other via a combination of physical and digital interactions. To the friend on Facebook whom I haven’t actually seen in person since 1988, I am as much my photos and my status updates and whatever I share of my contemporary life as I am that girl who used to chew her pencils. I hope.

Social media bypassed the gatekeeping of mass media control, and enabled us to become creators as well as consumers.

Identity-wise, this was revolutionary. Instead of sharing who I was via brand or band allegiance, or some other externalized representation of myself, I could actually connect with people – with anybody, anywhere, so long as we happened upon each others’ networks – on the basis of my words and thoughts and images. On the basis of what I created.

I could be known for being me. Or an aspirational version of me. Instead of having a picture of a typewriter pinned to my corkboard, I could write, and build an audience, and gradually – slowly – come to see myself and be seen through that lens. “Writer” became part of my digital identity. And – thanks to the blurring between online and off – my so-called “real” identity too.

Anybody could do it. You could share your work – your words, your pictures, your witty-ish status updates – and engage with the work of others and in so doing build reputation and connections and complex linked networks. Axel Bruns called this produsage. George Ritzer – with a few minor variations – calls it prosumption.

Want to be a photographer? Social media offers access to photography platforms, photography learning opportunities, and photography communities. You can take pictures and share them, with your name attached. You can participate in the sites and networks where other people are sharing photography that appeals to you. If you want to become known there, you can gradually build a presence and an identity and – yes – a niche. If you keep sharing and are generous with your own work and that of others, you may never be Ansel Adams, but you’ll be – in a very genuine way – a photographer.

The Difference Between Curators and Creators
An internet of a billion aspiring photographers, of course, does tend to get clogged. The culture of scarcity which led to my criminal defacement of a geometry textbook back in my misspent youth no longer exists. Instead, we have abundance, or excess. And a need to curate.

Since blogging died the first of its over-reported deaths back in, what? 2007? and Facebook and Twitter began minimizing the centrality of creation and enabling the public sharing of other people’s content, the notion of “curation” has been getting attention. Curation, really, is what librarians and archivists and gallery owners do. It involves more than collection and sharing, in its original context. But increasingly, and with some apoplexy on the part of professional curators, it’s being taken up simply as what you do when you select and share a friend’s great picture, or a New York Times article you loved, or a pin of vintage Snoopy coffee cups.

Curation is as much a part of our digital identity practices as creation, today.

It’s what Pinterest operates on, entirely. But at the express expense of creation. If you search “I wrote this” in Pinterest, for example, you get a gallery of pins that are pretty easily digestible, at a glance, without much depth to click and explore. Commerce. Curation. Not much in the way of creation that could actually be tied to a person’s digital identity or fledgling reputation as a writer.

And that’s no huge deal, if Pinterest is just a sideline in our digital identity practices. But in fact, it extends trends already begun with Tumblr and even, increasingly, Facebook, where frictionless sharing of unidentified content stands in as the means by which we communicate with our networks.

Here’s the thing, identity-wise. If we drop the “creator” part of the equation, people of Teh Internets, we really go back to being consumers, and consumers alone. Because the type of curation Pinterest offers isn’t actually new at all; it just used to involve doing unspeakable things to geometry texts and hair salon magazines.

Style over Substance: Simulated Reality, not Augmented Reality
The things Pinterest enables us to share need to be more or less instantly visually communicable, either in the form of a picture or an image of words, preferably in minimal quantity. It’s well-suited to design and aphorisms. It’s not well-suited to complexity.

Life is complex. In this augmented world of constant engagement and digital self-promotion, it’s exponentially complex. It’s no wonder we want to go live in Pinterest’s perfect white kitchens and surround ourself with cute pictures of polka-dots and cupcakes.

But online practices become habits. What we see shared shapes what we understand to be shareable, to be palatable.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the practices of Pinterest suggest we’ll stop writing about the stuff stuck in our teeth, or the stories of how our teeth or our selves got broken. (Schmutzie does a beautiful job of taking this apart, this creeping process of self-presentation). We’ll default increasingly to playing dressup in decontextualized, aspirational pictures of other people’s purdy teef. Like in the magazines.

Magazines have always been simulated reality. I like magazines just fine.

But you would not know me from a magazine article about me, if such a thing existed. You might recognize me from a picture, but the meeting – the moment where the physical and the digital selves converge in the same space – would be like meeting a celebrity, a cardboard cutout, not a person with whom you share a regular, intimate interaction in daily life, even if ‘only’ online.

If we trade the produsage model of augmented reality for a simple, Stepford-wife simulated reality, we undermine the premises and promises of social media; the idea that the long tail will ultimately have something for all of us. If we gradually remove ourselves from the creation portion of the creator-curator-consumer model, we’ll end up simply shuffling mass-mediated or market-driven versions of self around Teh Internets, wondering what went wrong.

Or perhaps entirely oblivious, smiling, Stepford-style.

39 Comments Pinterest: digital identity, Stepford Wives edition

  1. sweetsalty kate

    You know what changes the whole context? Getting a Pinterest account that nobody knows about. They don’t let you have a private account, but you can certainly sign up anonymously. I got tired of feeling like I was either aspirationally boasting or subjecting myself to the aspirational boasts of others, so I’ve got my own set of boards now purely as a visual bookmarker. Used this way, it’s become immensely useful. I’m not nearly as self-conscious about what I do or don’t pin. I don’t have to worry about obligatory following (which would otherwise populate my feed with meat recipes and stilettos – nothing personal, but it’s stuff I don’t need to be presented with). It’s purely for me, and I’m followed by no one. Makes a big difference.

    Reply
    1. bon

      that’s kinda genius. it would work. and it goes to show that it’s Pinterest’s capacity for visual organization that’s really so appealing, at least to me…if i could free myself from the internal ‘external eye’ judging what i pinned. i wonder. i suspect no.

      but now i want to see your board.

      Reply
  2. karengreeners

    I like your take on this, and it certainly is a thorough one. Here’s the funny thing – I feel almost the exact opposite about Pinterest. I like the fact that I am pinning ‘found’ objects and not those made specifically by my fingers.

    Call me locked in a no-longer-existent age of Pinterest innocence, but I always saw Pinterest as a place to curate digital inspiration and bulletin boards, and continue to use it that way, whether pinning straight from a website or repinning. In fact, I barely consider it social media at all and feel that the rising popularity of its use as yet another way to promote the posts that we wrote, pictures that we took and brands that we work for, will contribute to its creative downfall.

    I also think that, while the excessive repins and resurrections of certain pins get old fast, Pinterest actually offers a really nice, varied look at just how divergent we are as people. What makes it to my ‘clever’ board certainly might not float somebody else’s boat, but I like finding out just what is keeping their dreams a-bobbing on the surface.

    Reply
      1. bon

        i see the draw, don’t get me wrong. if i take it up i’ll do it like Kate’s suggested above, keep it separate from the rest of my identity.

        because you’re right…there are distinctions and personality to be found in what’s there. and for private use, i think i’d love the organizational possibilities. for all i’ve said here, i was still found it incredibly personal and meaningful to come across Susan’s Pinterest board of quotes, to read it through the lens of her eyes…the usedblog post (http://www.usedeverywhere.com/words-to-live-by/) was really my first foray into Pinterest, a few weeks ago. and i’ve been gazing since, and thinking.

        part of me kept wondering “what if Susan had found Pinterest first?” what if it had been her primary social media form of expression? could it have had an impact? and it might have but so much is missing.

        it’s not a fair question. it’s why i didn’t write about her in the post. but she was my intro to the site, and for all the critique here, it was an intro i’m extraordinarily grateful for.

        Reply
        1. Veronica Mitchell

          Bon, I wanted to tell you that I “knew” Susan primarily through Pinterest. I had heard of her blog, of course, but I wasn’t a regular reader, ad I didn’t connect Whymommy with the Susan Niebur I had seen online. Her “Women of Planetary science” pinboard was the first thing that really caught my eye. It was inspiring. It actually pointed us in the direction we went on my daughter’s recent school project. So even within the limitations of Pinterest, she communicated something of herself to us.

          Reply
  3. Neil

    Pinterest makes me uncomfortable for another reason. I feel that I am not aspirational enough. The few times that I played around with it, I mostly pinned photos of hot girls and exotic locales. Maybe my aspiration is to live in a James Bond film. I find it amazing that Pinterest has taken off the way it has in recent months. The copyright issues are disturbing to me. Imagine if there was a Pinterest for blog posts, and others were just swiping our content and repinning it over and over until the source was forgotten.

    Reply
    1. bon

      i think there’s something in the way humans process visual info that tends very strongly towards normativity. i wonder – this isn’t my field but i’m going to start digging – whether we tend to code our belonging to whatever the group may with visual cues…in terms of history and culture this would seem to make sense.

      and then you move it into the digital and i think “instagram” and automatically i think 70s processing, the grainy faux stuff Nathan writes about. i think Pinterest and i think Stepford pretty. this may be the limitations of my own access groups at work. but i wonder too if we don’t try to – maybe unconsciously – fit into these norms when we enter these environments? and those of us who can’t or don’t want to or are turned off by the visual code? we slip away to a different space.

      Reply
  4. Emma

    Huh. And here I thought I was just collecting ideas of things to make for dinner or to covet from etsy :). It’s good to make me think more deeply, though.

    Reply
  5. Lisse

    I had much the same impression that you described – the sensation of flipping through catalogs looking for something to buy. I’ve been on Pinterest for a week or so and nothing I’ve pinned actually “belongs” to me, in part because I had no idea so much stuff actually existed.

    Now some of the images are genuinely inspiring but there is the sense of a disconnect from reality. Some of that may wind up being a good thing — over the years I’ve seen so many images of the Piazza san Marco that seemed so unreal that when I finally got there I broke down in tears of gratitude. It was an overwhelming sensation of having a dream I didn’t recognize as a dream, and then having it come true.

    I’m opening a site tomorrow that I conceived of before Pinterest came along. I’m hoping people will share the histories of some of the items they personally have saved over the years, and what those things have meant to them. The tagline however, is directly in response to Pinterest – “It’s not the stuff, it’s the stories.”

    Reply
    1. bon

      i haven’t fully taken up the whole commercial aspect of this here because in truth i still don’t know how, almost two years into thinking about branding and digital identity.

      Interestingly, Pinterest looks far more overtly packaged and commercial than most platforms but doesn’t appear – in my limited experience – to have any upsell at all. mind you, i’ve only browsed. in copious amounts. with a login, i assume i’d get ads?

      part of me thinks that the platform devolves the commercialism onto the users, colonizing our minds with its emphasis on other peoples’ stuff. that stuff has to come from somewhere. will have to delve into this more.

      i love your tagline. i think part of my discomfort with Pinterest, which i need to own, is my own privileging of narrative.

      Reply
      1. Lisse

        No overt ads on Pinterest yet. But things do get pinned from commercial sites and I believe that if you are a vendor and choose to put a price on what you have pinned, Pinterest takes a small percentage of the price from each purchase. I’m guessing that’s in their terms of service, but it really just became public knowledge within the last week or so.

        Reply
  6. Juli

    Like Neil, I also feel that I’m maybe just not aspirational enough for Pinterest. Print magazines have a similar effect on me. (I am however a fan of tumblr.)

    I agree that copyright issues are a concern on Pinterest (and elsewhere), and also that Twitter, tumblr and now Pinterest have emerged as a way to compliment blogs and other media like Facebook.

    “…trends already begun with Tumblr…frictionless sharing of unidentified content stands in as the means by which we communicate with our networks…”

    The issue with Pinterest isn’t only about digital identity (what we choose to pin and repin, and what it says about us, our “brands”), but also about how we search for information.

    Search has become social. Combing the internet for information and piecing those ideas together into stories has led to some great collections. And people really want to push this content out to their friends. The web is changing, and it isn’t linear anymore.

    Reply
  7. MaryLUE

    Long tails! Statistics, my nemesis!

    Okay, wow. So, I don’t really know if I will be sued for pinning the wrong picture some day, but my brilliant friend has made me think about some things again. AGAIN!

    It’s interesting to me because of this surge in pinning, I’ve been talking to people about Pinterest. I’ve been saying over and over it’s really a virtual bulletin board and my favorite uses of it are subversive. Veronica Mitchell’s Smartassery Board. Mine and Beck’s Imaginary Wedding Boards. My favorite thing is when one of my sarcastic pins get unsarcastically repinned. I love that.

    I also love that my daughter, who is 11, gets repin notice after repin notice of TV shows, guinea pigs,and t-shirts she likes. She uses it exactly as you describe the corkboard of your youth.

    Well, that’s all I have to say about that.

    Except for this:

    ROBERT SCORPIO!

    Reply
  8. MaryLUE

    When I say that I love my daughter getting so many repins, it is because I am amused by that. How old are these people? Do they know they are repinning a KID’S boards?

    Reply
  9. Sue

    Curation–professional curation–is first and foremost an act of creation. Whether it be a gallery curator selecting works of art, juxtaposing one against another, establishing theme, and providing interpretative material for understanding why this particular collection was pulled together in this particular way at this particular time, OR whether it be a special collecton’s curator setting parameters and policies for collection development, engaging in historical/cultural research which frames the mandate of the collection, interacting with researchers, creating finding aids, and forming an expertise that opens up the materials to a broader audience, curation is creation. Curation is creation because it is about providing an informed interpretative famework as much as it is about selection and sharing.

    Pinterest is a great bookmarking site. It is a great design sharing site. It is a great site for reflecting personality (real or aspirational)through images. You are right, though, Bon. Pinterest users, for the most part, do not engage in creation and they certainly do not engage in curation.

    And now to take this one step further… Pinterest’s disturbing stance re copyright combined with its overwhelming popularity have made it something quite sinister. It now functions as a meta-web–a place you can go to in lieu of the open web to find ideas and inspiration. It takes the content of others–with or without their permission–keeps it on its servers, makes money from this content… Really, it doesn’t seem all that different from the Sploggers of old. The only difference is that instead of taking material outright, Pinterest gets free labour from its legions of “pinners” who may well be acting in good conscience but good conscience is not always cut and dried. Sure, in most cases pins point back to original websites, but they don’t always do this and they don’t do it with any kind of authority. An artist may have her work on a commercial or gallery site. If her work is pinned from there even with a link-back, she may never know that her images have a second life residing on Pinterest, perhaps even going viral and/or serving the interests of others. I know that you deliberately didn’t put your foot in the copyright waters in this post, Bon, but I think this is an important point to make b/c it further illustrates just how deeply Pinterest is not engaged in the act of creation.

    Reply
    1. bon

      i seem to have lost my own comment in response, Sue…i blame it on late-night thinking. :)

      basically, yes. i agree, and i thank you for taking the time to provide the informed interpretive framework that enables me to make a reasoned decision about agreeing.

      i think curation and creation are always linked, and in a sense i set up a false divide here in trying to emphasize what Pinterest privileges and doesn’t. even in the usage of the term curation for digital sorting and sharing i see elements of both creativity and creation: each person’s Pinterest board is in a sense a creation, like a collage is a creation, an assemblage. and there is – hopefully – creativity involved in envisioning that collage. perhaps collation would be a better term than curation? if i didn’t think the other had solidified in usage, i’d try to coin it. ;)

      Reply
      1. Sue Fisher

        Even if “curation” has solidified in usage, it is still important to unpack the import of its appropriation by Pinterest and in other digital contexts as well. Pinterest’s use of “curation” over “bookmarking” or “collation” or “showcasing” or “pinning” or “stealing” or whatever other term more adequately describes what Pinterest is about is key to your argument here. “Curation” as a term is invested with prestige; it evokes images of libraries and galleries, places that are centres of history, preservation and culture. The word carries a whole whack of Bourdieu’s cultural capital; it is, to use the language of your post, an aspirational term. As my grandma would say, Pinterest is “taking a 10 dollar word to describe a two dollar act.” By reinforcing the use of the term “curation” in your post without unpacking the import of its appropriation, you miss a significant support to your argument, I think.

        I was listening to the editor of Wired UK on Q this morning and he was throwing the term about left, right and centre. For him, the term “curation” helped elide the uneasy relationship that his magazine is adopting with respect to commercialization and journalism. His use of the term “curation” subtly announced, “what we are doing here is IMPORTANT and VALUABLE” when really what he was on about was making money–and/or by extension in Pinterest’s case, enabling leisure. There is nothing wrong with making money or engaging in leisure activities. The language that’s been adopted to describe such things, though, has import.

        I could go on to talk about how the “upselling” of Pinterest via the appropriation of the word “curation” has a negative impact on my profession and on notions of history, culture and preservation as well, but that’s beyond the scope of this post and I’ve rambled on long enough.

        Reply
  10. harrietglynn

    It’s the most vapid of all the sm tools but I’ve been tooling around, and I’ve noticed odd boards and themes show up like caravans or canoes or typewriters… It’s strangely compelling to watch.

    Reply
  11. amiee

    i learned of pinterest quite some time ago. remember those knitting blogs you, dave and i spoke about the first time we met, my intro to blogging? they are the core of my ‘online’ experience. the women i ‘know’ from this world have used pinterest since inception to pin things we can actually do; knitting projects, sewing projects, diy home projects. it is my corkboard of things i will do if i remember to see them in my jumbled daily life. so i go to my ‘food i want to eat’ board, click on panko crusted sweet potato burgers, go to the original link and make them for dinner.

    in my world, pinterest is only slightly aspirational, only once in a while do i find something i could not make and pin it to remind me that i cannot do that (yet). but then i feel like i am curating for myself only. i could give a shit who follows me, repins, comments. there is already too much dross in my life as is.

    i feel that as in everything offered to us these days online, it is the incorporation and exposure we allow/demand/limit(unlimit) ourselves that determine our interpretation of the tool.

    these tools will not leave ever again; like the realization that pointed tipped rocks can be arrowheads that can morph to bullets happened rapidly… this online world seems even more dangerous.

    you know what stumps me? not the pretty because pretty can be faked easily. but that pinterest claims to ‘own’ the images pinned. now that. that is one big fucking bullet.

    “By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services.”

    er, above quoted thingy taken from pinterest agreement thingy that i clicked yes to (but took quote from another blog. hope i don’t go to jail for putting that quote in the comment. should i link back?)

    Reply
  12. Angie

    I love Pinterest. I actually do recreate, riff on, find ideas for, expand art on stuff I find on Pinterest. All the time. It is an artist dream, though you do wade through quotes written in curly lettering. For me, I just do not have time to read the internet in all its little niches and blogroll breadcrumb trails. I like art. I like interior design. I like crafts with my kids. I like fashion. But I don’t even know fashion blogs that interest me. I don’t have time. Pinterest is a place where I can scan through the visual and pick out the aesthetic I like quickly, efficiently, and organize it. I use it as an extraordinary bookmarking site, but I also hate that everyone sees what I pin, because it feels obnoxious, like clogging the newsfeed on Facebook, or tweeting every craft you dig on Twitter. I like the private Pinterest account idea, but part of what I like about Pinterest is finding people who share my interests and aesthetics, and swapping good ideas.

    In a separate thread of this, I wrote a blog post about teaching children meditation and it has been pinned a bazillion times, so many times, I can’t even follow the trail of it. I have no idea, but I do know that the traffic to my website is HUGE from that one post on Pinterest. I don’t know who first pinned it, and I don’t know anyone who has pinned it personally, but it seems to always link back to my work. I don’t know if this is sinister, as Sue points out or not, but I know for my own creations as an artist and crafty lady, they have another life on Pinterest and the internet in general, and that is okay with me.

    Reply
    1. bon

      your response, Angie, and Amiee’s, and another conversation i had on Twitter forced me to sit back and look at the common refrain on Twitter’s value…(and i wasn’t saying it doesn’t have value, but i hadn’t considered it from this perspective, so…thanks).

      i think for people who identify as “makers” it serves a purpose that i missed, one with a direct connection to so-called “real” life. a visual recipe organizer, craft idea space…for me, these don’t have identity connections grounded in action, only aspiration, mostly. but like Amiee says below, online even those whose identities really are built are making the things that they share seem to default towards an aesthetic that is sanitized, simplified, tidied up…aspirational rather than reflective of complexity.

      this happens in writing too, sure, but – like you say – aesthetic browsing is what Pinterest is amazing for…the impressions formed are visual and almost instant and thus the impression of Stepford Lives far more immediate and dominant.

      Reply
  13. Neil

    The instagram craze is another issue, especially with all those fake filters, but at least the individual has to create something unique.

    Reply
  14. amiee

    thinking about this a bit… would add caveat. because blogging to me started in the crafting/making world, the picture/focus was rarely on ‘real life’, not the kids or their dinner or messes. most good makers are really also good at creating a ‘perfect picture’ of it so pinterest was a blip to me on the ‘prefect image’ radar. i will admit to abstaining from blogs that created too perfect a picture as it always left me feeling smaller, sadder and inept in my dirty kitchen floor and undone laundry. not their fault, just my perception.

    Reply
  15. Liva Blaise

    Anyone who views my Pinterest account can attest to the fact that it is NOT all shiny and perfect. What is wrong with wanting to see beautiful things? For whatever reason… if it feels good. Who is that hurting? Nevertheless, I do post the good, the bad, the disgusting, the ignored and the ugly. There is beauty in all things. Even those. I will tell you, I have not always met with positive reception to my viewers. I have removed pins that offended others ONLY because I do not wish to cause pain or discomfort, unnecessarily.(consider it an exercise in self-censorship, self-discipline) I do not “follow” many folks, at all. That is not my intent nor purpose for being on Pinterest. If it is someone else’s intent, so be it. Who am I to say??? I MAINLY post what I wish directly from the internet or two feeder tumblr blogs I created specifically for that purpose. Let us not forget, in new media, the end user is the ALWAYS the creator, the artist. Pinterest does not create US. Pinterest is simply a tool… as any other form of media. What we make of it is up to us… EACH OF US. If using it makes you feel bad, don’t. But if it doesn’t, please do. I know I have been into collages since high school. I love the visual aspect of life; and Pinterest gives me a tool to create something I feel is beautiful… in it’s own imperfection. Photoshopped, fantasy, reality, landscape, form, architecture, quotes… all of it. It is all beautiful.

    Reply
    1. bon

      i think imperfection is beautiful too, Liva…

      i don’t subscribe to the truth of “if it feels good, who is it hurting?” Pinterest doesn’t make me “feel bad”…it’s like a candy store. what i’m saying here is we need to think about what this level of candy diet does to us.

      social media is what i research and think about. our practices DO shape us, and Pinterest does create who we are – people who see our accounts see them as a representation of us. that’s part of how the medium operates.

      neither do i believe any medium is simply a tool. especially not media that make up our reputational and performative identities within the networks we interact in.

      Reply
  16. Veronica Mitchell

    I have an experience of Pinterest similar to Aimee’s, though I can’t knit. In terms of time spent on the site, I use it primarily for recipes. The recipes are things I actually make, and to keep it less “aspirational,” I make notes in the comments of the pin: what worked in the recipe, what didn’t, how I’d change it next time, whether my family liked it.

    The comment section is a practical part of making Pinterest more, well, practical. Which is why I dislike how Pinterest limits the functionality of the comments. It does not notify you of replies, and you can’t edit or delete comments. In fact, as social media goes, Pinterest limits its own social aspect by their extremely short list of notifications, and no history of notifications. If I don’t look at it at just the right moment, I may not realize that someone has added their own comment.

    Those may be only bugs in the system (who knows?), but it adds to the problem of inauthenticity that you are pointing out. The messiness of life is revealed in how we relate to each other; by limiting the ability to relate, Pinterest keeps things relatively plastic.

    Reply
  17. Pingback: Pinterest and Feminism » OWNI.eu, News, Augmented

  18. Pingback: Pinterest and Feminism | CESPRI Pinterest and Feminism | Centrul de Studii Politice si Relatii Internationale

  19. Jennifer

    I like that Pinterest engages a 2nd sense. I’d say that blogs (and definitely twitter) are primarily verbal while Pinterest is visual. I know blogs have photos, but it isn’t really set up for that; images are peripheral to words on blogs. On Pinterest, words are peripheral. Which is why their comment section sucks. You’re not supposed to comment with words; you’re supposed to comment with an image of your own.

    However I am totally not a visual person, so I have no use for Pinterest!

    I’m waiting for the audio version of Pinterest — not a version with *songs* but with sounds — sounds from a life — with my iPhone I can make quick easy audio clips & why isn’t there a site encouraging that sharing?

    Or … is there?

    Reply
  20. Pingback: What’s New at UVenus? 17 March 2012 « University of Venus

  21. Pingback: Pinterest and Feminism « n a t h a n j u r g e n s o n

  22. Pingback: Filed Away: On Pinterest and Dreams

  23. Suzanne Aurilio

    This post got me thinking about my digital identity. If I didn’t do the work I do (education and technology) what if any digital identity would I have? How would I hang out in the digital realm?

    As I contemplated this, I felt a bit unnerved, identitiless. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Second Life, socially and then doing research. I couldn’t help but consider the meanings of identity in that space. Mine and the Residents I met. I often go back to Annette Markham’s quote which sums it up well. Paraphrased: online experiences are real, how could experiences be anything else but real.

    If Pinterest is Stepford Wivian, Second Life is a mix of Wallace and Grumit and Blue Velvet. Its boundlessness makes it incomprehensible and thus uninviting for mainstream society.

    No, I think the web as a social space is complex enough to make Pinteresty kinds of places (a) necessary (evil) in the big scheme of things. :)

    Reply
  24. Pingback: Filed Away: On Pinterest and Dreams | Writing Through the Fog

  25. Pingback: Pinterest: Copyright is Not the Only Debate | adroyt

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