I didn’t get Pinterest at first.
All those magazine-worthy photographs of cunning little cupcake people — with no recipes attached. All those beautiful pictures of DIY bunkbeds that doubled as homework stations disguised as spaceships — with no accompanying instructions. And all those images of stuff, stuff, and more stuff that people aspire to buy. To me, this social media channel seemed to run the gamut from pointless to consumerism-run-amok.
It’s not as though I had any aversion to social media in general. When I first started exploring Pinterest for a social media class, I’d already embraced LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. It was Pinterest I didn’t get. But creating a Pinterest account was homework for the class, so I became a pinner.
I approached my homework in my own way; I populated my Pinterest boards (as they call the categories users create), taking a retrospective approach instead of a prospective one. Instead of posting — er, pinning — about places I hoped to travel to, I put up photos of places I’d already visited. (It helped that I had traveled a bit.) I made a board of Broadway shows I’d seen, going back to high school. (It helped that I’d seen a lot of theater in my youth.) And I put together a board of BBC TV shows that I love. No products I wanted to buy someday. No food photos without recipes. Just images I liked. The beauty part of all of this was that I only had to search Pinterest itself for photos to populate my boards, and up came hundreds of choices to scroll through. I wound up never uploading an image of my own or saving an image from elsewhere on the Internet (though you can do that if you want to).
I surprised myself by enjoying the process and spent a lot more time on it than I’d planned. It was a fun way to take a break, I decided. But I didn’t quite understand how this collection of pictures and memes could have attracted 250 million active monthly users.
Then one day I noticed that my kitchen cabinets were ever-so-slightly separating from the wall. Yikes! It was time to start the kitchen reno I’d been putting off before disaster struck. I started a folder — yes, an old-school pocket folder that I could hold in my hands. Into it, I placed pages clipped from magazines, brochures on everything from countertops to flooring, notes on contractors, and ads from the local papers. Very quickly, it was bulging with untidy bits and pieces. And I’d barely begun.
Online design websites offered a trove of ideas. But how to keep them straight? It occurred to me to print them out and stuff them into my folder. Then, I remembered Pinterest. I created a new board that I called “Home Ideas” and started scrolling. Using search terms like “white kitchen cabinets” and “mosaic tile backsplash” — my searches changed as the reno progressed — I found hundreds of images right on Pinterest. Often these images linked to the websites of vendors, which offered specs, prices, and more useful details. Other images were linked to blogs on which designers and DIYers shared their experiences and tips. All I had to do was click to save an image to my board for future reference.
My “Home Ideas” board was ideal for comparing not just products, but design ideas that only a large volume of photos of completed kitchens could provide. How would white cabinets look with oak floors as opposed to tile? I found examples of both, saved them, and returned to them again and again until I made my decision. (After flirting with tile and then Luxury Vinyl Tile, I went with real golden oak.) I paged through hundreds of backsplash ideas. (After noting the astronomical prices of the Florentine tiles I lusted after, I considered mosaic tiles, stencils that proved to be far beyond my limited artistic talents, and finally decided on bright white full-size tiles with colorful accents that I absolutely loved.)
As with my other Pinterest boards, I could have saved images from sources around the Internet, but there was so much already on Pinterest that I didn’t have to. For design ideas, it offered a whole universe.
Somewhere along the line, I remembered the words of a speaker I’d heard at a conference a few years earlier: You don’t need to buy into every aspect of every social media channel out there; use the channels that suit you, in ways that make sense to your life. That’s how I wound up putting Pinterest to use. There are still things about Pinterest that I don’t really get, but it doesn’t matter. It was a wonderful tool when I needed it. And I’d use it again. My bathrooms could really use updating.