24 hours in and I’m already addicted as hell.
I joined Pinterest before I really knew what it was, and it only took a few minutes for the format to suck me in. Thus far in the digital age I’ve avoided iPhones and all their apps, Farmville, Words With Friends, Twitter, and plenty of other time-wasting online activities. Sure, I check Facebook several times a day, but I rarely spend more than a few minutes actively engaging with the site. But with Pinterest, I think I finally get it. I see how people could spend half their lives online.
What is it, exactly? Well, it’s virtual scrapbooking. With a community that somehow manages to feel small, even when it’s huge (Pinterest crossed the 10 million user mark faster than any standalone site in history, a fact that has plenty of people paying attention). Basically, it allows you to display stuff you like in categories called “pinboards”. Other people can like your stuff, or re-pin it. You can comment on each other’s stuff.
This might all sound incredibly mundane and fluffy, but Pinterest appeals to a very primal desire (for me, at least): to share things you like. I could talk for hours about books, food, movies, or even buildings that I love. And I could listen rapt for hours while someone else talked about what they loved. Pinterest lets me do both of those things with a huge group of people.
Admittedly, most online traffic represents fluffy pursuits–gaming, posting photos of food and cats, arguing over who could beat Han Solo in a fight. But for some reason arguing about sports or movies is just “online activity,” whereas sharing stuff and talking about it–especially when that stuff includes clothes, weddings, and food–is “girly” (which for plenty of people equals “dumb”). Among the boards that I’ve looked at so far, about 1% of material is related to weddings, but you wouldn’t guess that from this chart. This article represented Pinterest’s growth with a fucking hairdryer. Apparently when 80% of your traffic is female, you’re a) full of white dress-obsessed airheads, b) an endless source of snark for more “serious” internet users, and c) unable to be taken seriously as an online force.
The snarkers can snark all they want, but as Jezebel points out, “Pinterest drives more traffic than YouTube, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn and MySpace.” And it doesn’t take a genius to see that the site isn’t just an innocuous indie effort at community–every pin equals money for Pinterest and the product manufacturers whose products are getting pinned and re-pinned. Like Facebook, Pinterest’s users generate free advertising just by sharing what they like.
But I like Pinterest so, so much more. I know it’s a marketing gimmick, and I know that by using it I’m basically just turning myself into a free billboard. But I am in love. Hopelessly. The concept is beautiful in its simplicity, as Jezebel goes on to say: “(Pinterest) seems to have identified what women want from the internet by simply allowing women to identify what they want. Period.” The online universe can snicker about Pinterest’s girly-ness all it wants, but it’d be foolish to ignore it.