Pinterest, much like the little black dress or the Birkin bag (depending on your tax bracket), has suddenly become the new must-have for women. It's the latest social media craze -- and it's blowing Google+ out of the water, despite, or perhaps because of, what some media outlets project is a user base that skews about three-quarters female.
I don't quite remember the first time I heard of Pinterest, which is most likely because it was mentioned alongside knitting or pickling or some such activity I only half pay attention to. But once it was on my radar, I quickly developed a bad case of "red car syndrome." Suddenly Pinterest was everywhere, in particular all over my Facebook minifeed next to pretty pictures of homemade fruit tarts and hand-crocheted sweaters. I'm no expert on crafting, but I do get excited about new technology. I signed up.
Eventually I got the gist, which is to create a virtual vision board made up of anything that strikes my fancy on the interwebs. I figured out how to add the "Pin It" button to my browser, which bookmarks the things I like and attaches them to one of my aptly named boards ("Hungry Eyes" for food, "Walk-in Closet" for cute clothes, and so on).
But the supposed joy of Pinterest really comes from window-shopping friends' boards and "repinning" their fabulous finds. My friends had so many, I quickly became preoccupied with filling up my white space. How shameful to have a vision board with no visions, after all.
This should be a splendid little activity, a way to nurture my inner creative goddess by discovering pieces of inspirational flair: recipes for charming home-baked minicakes and the perfect pie crust, instructions for canning and herb growing and making hanging flowerpots out of silk scraps and Wiffle balls, photos of the perfect curtains for my dream house, and patio furniture for the expansive lanai that will go with it. Images like these should excite me, motivate me, even. Certainly, they should make me feel good.
Instead, Pinterest makes me feel like a dejected loser.
See, I missed the memo that said we ladies are now expected not only to hold down jobs but also to knit, craft and bake from scratch again. Wasn't it just a few years ago that all signs pointed to rejection of these things? Too many Sex and the City reruns had me thinking it was still OK to use cake mixes and purchase my scarves, but Pinterest jolted me into the new reality, and apparently I have a lot of catching up to do.
The problem is, I'm not catching up. With Pinterest, I'm actually just amassing a huge to-do list that I'm unlikely to check a single item off of, ever. It's yet another layer of virtual ADD. "Ooh! I should totally craft those adorable tin can luminaries!" For about 10 minutes. Until, "I totally want to make that delish-looking guacamole salsa dip!"
To my Pinterest friends -- many of whom, by the very nature of social media, see the online me far more often than the physical one -- this recipe now represents me: I am a person who makes interesting dips. Except I don't, not yet, anyway. The reality is, I've never even made homemade salsa, much less guacamole, yet suddenly this image of a salsa-guac combo is a reflection of what I'm about? In that case, I'd better get on it.
My Pinterest boards have become the virtual equivalent of that pile of mail I keep meaning to go through yet haven't, so it just keeps growing and stressing me out. The more stuff I pin, the more I feel like a failure.
Of course I'm doing it wrong. Pinterest shouldn't be about curating the perfect Martha Stewart-approved page; it should be about sharing ideas with friends. Which sounds like a nice thing, except for that pesky phenomenon called correspondence bias. In terms of social media, that means we take the happy imagery plastered on our friends' profiles to be an accurate representation of their lives. It continually tricks us into thinking they've got it together. Our psyches tell us our friends really are making salsa-guac and minicakes and cute flowerpots. And that makes us feel like we suck -- because we're not.
If I were really being honest, I'd have just one Pinterest board: the "I'll Probably Never Buy/Use/Cook/Craft/Afford This, But I Like It Anyway!" kind. Something tells me that would bring down Pinterest's giddy vibe, though, so I play along.
I tell myself that recognizing the endless cycle of Pinterest envy is at least a step in the right direction. That is, until I see a pin with instructions on how to properly "style" a coffee table, and my palms sweat. Mine is strewn with old magazines, and I'm awful. It begins again.