We’re Pinning Out of Control

Pinterest is one of my favourite social media platforms.

I get inspired by the work and words of others, and it’s so convenient and fun to organize content I find online so I can retrieve it later for a project, hairstyle reference, or book recommendation.

Full disclosure here, though. I’ve noticed that my beloved pinboard site can suck me into a pinning vortex if I’m not careful. Fun and inspired can turn to overwhelmed and insecure in short order if I’m not being intentional about what pinning inspiring content can and can’t do for me in my life.

It always starts innocently enough: I browse through my feed to kill some time, thinking I’ll look for some recipe ideas to try, and I’ll pin a few that look good. Then something else will catch my eye…

Ooh! It’s a tutorial on how to strip paint off my cupboards. Well, that’s helpful, isn’t it? I could use that down the road — better pin it so I don’t lose track of it!

Then I’ll read a quote that speaks to me, so I pin that, too.

Wow, I love that haircut (and that one and that one)! Pin ‘em all!

An article on how to optimally arrange throw cushions? PIN! So helpful! I will have the cutest house.

How to fold the perfect fitted sheet? Done! Pin it! My guests will be so impressed!

How to embroider “Smash the patriarchy” on a pillow? HELL YES – PIN IT NOW!!

Before I know it, I can’t remember the first thing I pinned or even why I opened the app to start with. My eyes are strained, my mouth is dry, my kids have grown taller, my hair is greyer… and I’ve become hyper-aware of how impossible it is to actually tackle all of these life-enhancing jobs. I start to think about how run-down my cabinets look, how boring my hair is these days, how I don’t have the time or money to buy all new throw cushions, how unlikely it is that I could ever embroider something so lovely as that piece I pinned….

Eventually, I crawl out of the ditch I wound up in and move on with my life. Ready to pin again another day, as they say (do they say that?).

But I’ve been reflecting on my relationship with Pinterest lately, and thinking about how people around the world are engaging with similar social media platforms. What are the consequences of using this kind of technology? What are we actually doing with it?

If I’m honest, the answer for me is usually a lot of pinning, engaging in a fair bit of crushing social comparison — and not a lot else. There’s evidence to suggest that I’m not alone in this, too. Psychology Today has an article about why social comparison is so harmful, so you should check that out if you’re interested in learning more.

Browsing social media (Pinterest or otherwise) and pinning content is alluring, no doubt. We feel that dopamine rush, and our excitement builds for all the creative, impressive feats we will accomplish with all this stored inspiration. But what are we really getting out of all this pinning? How many jobs to we actually tackle? How much insecurity do we develop along the way from comparing ourselves to others?

We are in an age of information overload, and researchers have learned that it comes at a cost. Our attention is spread too thin, and that negatively impacts our productivity. When we combine that with the dangers social comparison, we end up impeding our pursuits of achievement and fulfillment — which is the opposite effect of what we are after when we log on.

We are pinning (and tweeting, texting, scrolling) ourselves out of control, folks.

We see a tutorial on how to knit an afghan, and we put pressure on ourselves to become the kind of person who knits her own afghan. We read about how to bake a cake from scratch, and then beat ourselves up if we never quite get around to following through. We learn the life hacks that will turn our disorganized bedrooms into havens of order and tranquility, and then we criticize ourselves for not getting the job done. After all, we tell ourselves, all the info we need is right there on our boards! It’s right there!

But we’re not knitting afghans, and we’re not baking cakes from scratch, and we haven’t organized our bedrooms, and we feel horrible about ourselves and our abilities because of it.

We can’t be experts in everything, so why do we set ourselves up for disappointment this way?

Sure, it’s fun and empowering to learn a new skill, and sometimes we do open up Pinterest and give something we pinned a go, but no one can keep up with the rate at which we can pin stuff.

We need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember that we are doing the best we can. By all means, keep pinning if you love it. Just be gentle with yourself while you’re in there.

And when your organizing board becomes more a source of anxiety than of inspiration, give us a call. We can take a few of those tasks off your hands, freeing you up to knit that afghan, or bake that cake, or refinish those cabinets….

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