When I first explained Pinterest to James, he responded with, “Oh, so it’s like shopping?” Of course not, I explained. You don’t actually own any of the things that you pin, you are just sorting and saving them for future reference.
But lately I’ve been thinking that he is maybe more right than I – than we all – like to think.
What are we pinning and why?
For some of my boards, I know the answer. When I was planning my wedding (which, ok, prompted another Pinterest-induced breakdown), I pinned things that inspired me, or things that I wanted to share with my bridesmaids, mom, or mother-in-law for their input. As long as it was used in moderation, it was truly useful. I also love the recipes that I have pinned, easily sitting there with links to dishes that I now love making. It is so convenient having a digital storage space with links to things that I have tried and loved or still want to try. I head to my pinboard when I am staring blankly at the fridge wondering what to make for dinner. I also enjoy my pinboard of puppies and pictures of children dressed as old people or food because, hey, everyone has those down days where pictures of a baby dressed as pasta just cheers you up.
But I’ve been pinning less and less, and thinking about it more and more.
I guess what it comes down to is simplicity, that virtue that the whole cyber world seems to love right now, even if it is eluding us all. I was talking with a friend recently about the glorification of the adjective “simple.” We all want “simple” children’s toys (read: expensive Etsy wooden giraffes that cost more than a whole tub of Legos) and we want “simple clean lines” in our furniture, homes, clothing… the list goes on. After the 90’s and early 2000’s baroque extravagance, we have emerged into an era that believes simple is inherently superior. And so we clean out our wardrobe, discarding all the clothes we only occasionally wear and we invest in simple classic basics that inevitably cost three times as much, though they will of course, last much longer.
I think this is a great thing. I think we should discard things that we don’t want and need, because clutter, or more specifically, excess, is the enemy of contentment. Humans are by nature prone to excess. We want more and we want it faster, better, more fashionably, etc. All of this excess just leaves us wanting still more and we live in cluttered castles of stuff and plans, feeling desperately discontent.
So where does Pinterest come in?
Very few of us (if any at all) actually follow through with what we pin. You might occasionally cook something you pinned, or buy something you added to you “Fashion Forward Me” board. Instead, we cyber-hoard, pinning, sorry curating, hundreds of things to our different boards. As we strive to make our lives simpler, more content, and less cluttered, we let our minds, desires, and impulses become Internet gluttons, grabbing everything in sight. We tell ourselves that it doesn’t count as actually having all these things, because we don’t actually own them. We just own the idea of them, the desire for them, catalogued in an increasingly large corner off the Internet.
But does that make us less discontent? I don’t think so.
Contentment isn’t about becoming instantly happy with what you have as compared to all the things you want, but don’t have. It’s not a list of have and have-nots, where you hope that the have column makes you happier. It is about developing a lifestyle that actively avoids indulging in the things that you don’t have, can’t have, never will have. And you know what?
You will never have a wedding like the sum of a wedding board on Pinterest.
You will never have a closet as lavish as your cyber closet board.
You will never have a vacation exactly like your “Places to go before I die board.”
You will never have a house, a family, and a party as perfect as the ones that you can curate.
But this is to be expected, because real life can only be lived, not curated.
Obviously, I don’t mean that you should or can’t hope or dream for things. Aspiring to an image or lifestyle that you want is something we all should do. But there is a difference between saving up for a vacation that you and your family really want to take and spending hours each day gathering hundreds of images for things that you will never do. Maybe you can do that all day and still feel happy with your life, but I can’t.
Beyond the contentment issue, we return to the idea of simplicity. Having stuff isn’t wrong. Being controlled by it is, and I would wager that if we are spending hours each day pinning, we are controlled by the stuff that we don’t have. You could pare your closet down to a pair of jeans, quality shirt, and perfect boots, and still be utterly cluttered and controlled by all your cyber stuff.
So as for me, I’ve slowed down in my pinning. Occasionally I will come across a recipe I like, or a picture of a something hysterical and I will add it to a board. But I’ve stopped the pin binges, the long stints of mindless shuffling through empty promises and out-of reach possibilities. They don’t bring me joy, they don’t help me love the life I do have more, and they clutter my mind. And in the void left after clearing out some cyber wanting, I’ve found abiding contentment.
Because in the end, contentment, simplifying, and de-cluttering our lives isn’t about the stuff we have, but rather the stuff that has us. And if we are spending hours pouring over things and experiences we want, sorting them into our cyber closets and lives, they own us far more than we own them.
Note: Please note that this post is called “Why I stopped pinning,” not “Why this is a moral imperative for everyone everywhere to stop pinning.” Every person is their own special cocktail of weaknesses and shortcomings. Maybe you find no connection in your own life between over-pinning and contentment. These words are merely meant to make you think, not condemn or critique you.
I 100% agree with you, when Pinterest first came around I felt something weird about it, I have never been much for using it but I had one just like everyone else did. When I was planning my wedding that’s what everyone tells you to do, “look at Pinterest it will inspire you!” So I did, but after a few days I realized that if I kept looking my wedding would look exactly like everyone else and not like me and josh! And it made me sad for the things I couldn’t afford. I think that Pinterest is a very cool idea, but that people end up wishing that life was more than what it is, and that makes me sad.
So true — the idea is awesome, but sometimes we fail in the implementation.
Also, your wedding was ADORABLE.
I’ve cut way back on my pinning, too. For me, it wasn’t a matter of discontentment, but time-management. I was pinning all these storage ideas, recipes, cleaning tips, etc. to improvement my life, but I was spending more time “pinning” than “doing.” Insightful post, Hannah.
I am capable of wasting so much time on all the different social medias, so I know that Pinterest is no more or less “evil” than any others. It was just the one getting me and giving the least back! And oh have we all fallen in the pinning vs doing trap!
I love this post, Hannah!! I totally agree with your ideas….Pinterest can be a black hole of discontentment. Now I am thinking of all the other ways I spend my time wanting something other than what I have….yikes!
Don’t think tooooooo hard… it too can be a black whole of discouragement. ; ) We can’t beat ourselves up over it, just tweak or habits a little!
Amen! I have never signed up for Pinterest and I’m glad I haven’t. Good thoughts in the post.
I mean, it totally has positive aspects, and great uses. But then again, I haven’t really missed the time I spent on it.
Pinning isn’t the problem for me these days, but discontentment definitely is. There are some very encouraging, good thoughts in here that were good for me to read. Thanks. 🙂
Discontentment basically lurks everywhere, but I am recently trying to be proactive about hunting it down and digging it up!
Yep. And it’s no fun.
“You will never have a vacation exactly like your ‘Places to go before I die board.'” Challenge accepted. 🙂
Whoa – I would love to see that vacation! For me to realize mine, I would have to rob a bank… or seven. : )
Very acute! Aside from the whole pinning thing, you’ve articulated a larger cultural shift and wisely neither wholly rejected nor wholly embraced — grateful for your insight.
Thanks Kjerstin! I think it is a whole cultural thing, one where we praise one virtue, think we have it, and then cultivate exactly the opposite, but in a non tangible way so we can claim immunity.
It’s definitely important to contemplate the role of Pinterest, and I’m glad you are taking care of yourself in this way. As you probably know, I am a huge Pinterest fan, at least when I have time for it. For my own circumstances, I do not find Pinterest to be a problem in my life, though I’m sure it’s different for others. I spend, on average, 10 minutes a day on Pinterest (some days an hour, then sometimes a month will go by and I’ve not had time for it).
I find it nourishing– to the extent that I’m willing to spend about 10 minutes a day on it. I think it is worth about that amount of time in my life because a) I am a very visual person who is always looking for more creative fuel, b) it is a source of some delight, and c) it helps me efficiently organize my tastes. The creativity of others gives me great delight and ideas for, admittedly just some, projects I will implement in my life. I do not feel jealous, but encouraged and intrigued. I also just love organizing my tastes, and seeing how I change over time. Pinterest is not deep and profound, but I don’t think it is trying to be.
Pinterest is the visual equivalent of fun reading for me. I mean some fun reading is permissible, right? I think visual media are the same way– at least for me. I value a life of simplicity also. I’m wondering how one implements a life of simplicity into the world of ideas– intellectual, creative, arts, and so on. To what extent ought we implement simplicity in our imaginations? Most of us can read “Lord of the Rings” and soak up what Tolkien’s ideas have to offer without actually wanting to dress up like a hobbit everyday as we go about fighting darkness in our lives. It’s acceptable to read a book without actually taking steps to make the fantasy a reality, and I think Pinterest is the same way. I’m not saying Pinterest is the equivalent of great literature, I’m saying it’s possible for it to entertain ideas without being disruptive.
All that having been said, I’m glad that when Pinterest became disruptive in your life dropped it, and hope that I do the same in the event that one day I feel as you do now.
**To perhaps the detriment of my words, I should admit, if you spend any time on my “Where I Would Love to Inhabit My Life” board, it’s pretty evident how much I would love to design my own hobbit house. I delight in the dream 🙂
Hey, I love your Pinterest boards, and I totally agree that Pinterest can be an awesome tool/diversion, especially if you are looking for a specific thing, or working on designing your hobbit home. This is why I haven’t deleted my pinboards or anything that drastic. There is nothing inherently wrong with Pinterest or accumulating moderation. And you are obviously someone who can Pin in moderation. I think what got me was just reading various articles from people talking about our need to simplify, and then at the same time being overwhelmed with how much they were pinning. Inspiration is awesome, but too much mindless inspiration sometimes makes me feel less inspired.
I do think that there is difference between books and something that gives you images though, in that books force you to imagine, where something like Pinterest feeds already imagined things. Now it can still be good ( I mean, most of my current hairstyles came from Pinterest) but just engages less of the brains imagining power.
And did you go to Hillsdale? I’m pretty sure that a lot of people there did actually want to go around being hobbits and fighting darkness. : )
Yes, absolutely: “… isn’t about the stuff we have, but the stuff that has us …”
I re-opened my Pinterest account to find wedding ideas. And oh, the wedding ideas did I find! And I implemented a few of them! And it was wonderful! And now I’m done with it again, for the same sentiments you’ve expressed in this post, though I’ve never thought through it enough to verbalize it (or to be so eloquent as you are able to, at that.)
Thanks for the thoughts.
That’s pretty much how I work these days: occasional fast descents into the pin vaults to retrieve one thing, that back out to get on with life. : )
Interesting, Hannah! I got on the Pinterest-wagon later, but distinctly remember thinking, “Umm…here comes another time-sink!!” I think, for me, I was able to temper its craziness because I’m just pretty pragmatic… my wedding board was there, and I liked looking at all the ideas, but at the end of the day I could look at them and realize there was NO way I could do anything in reality. Just ideas. Now, I use it only as a way to organize and remember websites/articles, sort of like a bookmarks folder. I guess my choleric nature/love of the practical wins out over Pinterest…
Yay for practicality!!! It can be a great way to organize, which is why I’ve mostly stopped pinning, but still refer to stuff I pinned that I actually use, and I do occasionally add things that I legitimately want to remember/ reference.
I joined Pinterest after a ton of random girlfriends gushed, saying, “You’ll LOVE it! It’s SO you!”
I was a member for a grand total of one day. One. I immediately spent an hour (two?) looking at things I couldn’t afford to have and pictures of what someone else’s idea of “perfect” is. So I logged off, and haven’t regretted it for a second since.
Joining the real world is more fun!
Pingback: Stop Pinterest | Pursuit of freedom
Pingback: Contentment. | lindsay ralene.
Pingback: New-to-me blogs | Definitely RA
I don’t think I thought about Pinterest in that way because I don’t use it as a cyber – hoard space. I thrive on lists and goals. I use my boards as inspiration to make lists and to follow through on them. So for the record, I am one of those odd people who does cook what I pin. I even have a board of what I have tried and loved. I delete what I didn’t like. And I move on. I use my exercise boards daily. And I love my fashion board because it inspires me to get creative with my wardrobe. I have actually bought a lot of items that I have pinned on my fashion board. And as a nanny, wow. I have tried many amazing crafts and activities with my kids found on Pinterest. While I see your point, I love Pinterest because I accomplish so many fun, new things because of it. When used as a place to set goals and to meet them, Pinterest is a wonderful tool to be enjoyed. But that’s just my two cents. 🙂
But Facebook on the other hand… that’s where my personal cyber disdain can be found!
I realized later that my comment might have sounded snarky. If it did, I apologize. I was trying to express how wonderful I personally think Pinterest is when it isn’t abused. I love your blog and insights! ♥