Monday, February 20, 2012

Why I'm Quitting Pinterest

It all began so innocently. I started looking on Tumblr to get inspiration for my next quilt. I started my own art inspiration Tumblog and built up a small following. Looking for new content to post, I clicked through a photo to Pinterest. Then found another and another to check out. Who knew there was such creativity on display? A new world of quilts, scenic vistas, and color swatches and manicure beauty shots opened up for me to consume.  Next thing I knew, I was sucked in, scrolling through picture after picture, liking and repinning.  It all seemed so innocent, so delicious – a no-calorie treat to feed my late-night beauty cravings without guilt.

But then I started to notice something. The more I pinned (and reblogged – yes I was still Tumbling), the less time I was spending on my own creative endeavors.  And the less I did of my own art (cooking, crafting, gardening, writing), the more I craved those all-to-easy-to-snack-on, bite-sized pins.

When nearly 6 months had gone by and I had no new art piece to show for my time, I started making the connection: pinning was killing my creativity.

Seems like everyone is gushing about Pinterest these days.  I’m not surprised. I recognize social media obsession.  Anyone who knows me well knows I’m hooked on Twitter.  My mother even asked me once, oh so delicately, if I was perhaps addicted to it.  Now after 5 years and (only) 18,000 Tweets, I’m fairly certain that I’m not. But I could see how I could be. People have likened Twitter to a cocktail party.  And sure, we’ve all been to one where people are doing lines in the back room. So you might say Twitter is the cocaine of social media.  In my experience, however, Twitter has value beyond partying. I build real world relationships there; I learn valuable information; I find support for my parenting angst; I laugh out loud.

If Twitter is social media cocaine, Pinterest is Meth. You’ve seen at least one before and after Meth Head picture, right? The after picture looks like someone has had all of their life force sucked out of them. Okay, okay. It’s probably exaggerating to say that Pinterest is going to kill you like Meth certainly will, but I’m living proof that Pinterest will suck your creativity dry.

Why? My leading theory is it has to do with empty consumption. Pinterest boils consumption down into its most primitive and mindless level.  Think about it. Every time you sit down with Pinterest, you are consuming. Don’t kid yourself; repinning isn’t creating anything – other than a hoard of photos of things OTHER PEOPLE have created. How does that Pinterest board change your life for the better? How many of those recipes (craft ideas, quilt patterns, home d├ęcor) have you actually created yourself?

Last week Emily summed up empty consumption so well, “I just repinned a purse I like, before clicking through. It costs $15,000. There's so much wrong with that.”

Repinning takes practically no effort.  Just click like or repin and instantly it’s yours.  Neatly tucked away on a board that you can proudly share with others on Twitter or Facebook and say “I like this,” “This is me,” “I have taste.” And why wouldn’t you pin instead of create it for yourself? Creating something is hard work, fraught with angst and self-doubt.  It requires enormous energy, will and (dare I say) magic, to come up with a new creation – be it an idea, painting or cookie recipe.

Don't be fooled, pinning is empty consumption. Pinning is like drinking that can of Coke when you need more energy. Most moms will tell you soda is empty calories. Sure it gives you a boost, but that energy spurt is short-lived. Pinterest works the same way. I pin a few things, I fill that creative drive – for the moment. But the joy that comes from making something real and sharing it with my family and friends? Pinterest gives me none of that. So while it satisfies my short-term hunger, it does nothing to nurture me in the long run.

So I’m quitting pinning. Or at least I’m trying to.  (Did I mention it’s a bit like meth?) And instead I’m going to focus on making real life creations. This morning I made muffins from scratch. I could easily have spent the morning pinning muffin beauty shots and told my kids to eat cereal for breakfast. Not a horrible choice alone, but multiplied?

Pop may be the single largest contributor to obesity in this nation. I only hope that Pinterest won’t become the empty substitute for creativity in our lives.

Think about it.  Since you’ve been pinning all of those beauty shots, have you been contributing more beauty in the real world or have you been filling your inner craving to create with empty consumption of other people's pins?