The first time I heard about Pinterest was from another mom – she asked me if I have been using Pinterest lately, as we sat and nursed our newborns. That seemed like an odd question because I hadn’t showered in a week, so taking on new projects was beyond my imagination.
Busy mom of two: “Well, it’s this website where you collect pictures from the internet that you like.”
Ashia: “Uhm. Why would you do that?”
BMoT: “So you can, you know…uh, do things. With the pictures.”
Ashia: “What kinds of things?”
BMoT: “I dunno, you just, like, they are nice pictures. And then you get ideas. For stuff to do. Because you like them.”
Ashia: “So you do stuff based on the pictures?”
BMoT: “Well, I don’t do anything now. But I collect them for when I can. You know, for later, when I have the time.”
This struck me as unnecessary busywork with no tangible benefit, so I assumed I was just missing something. A few weeks later, after I finally had that shower, I checked it out and was HORRIFIED to realize that it was so, so, so much WORSE.
There is a HUGE difference between inspiration and obligation – Pinterest is dedicated to confusing the two.
If you haven’t visited Pinterest yet (I know, of course you have, but let’s pretend), you link to images that you come across on the internet. There is no way to sort your images or rearrange them and they are thrown in cobblestone style. So on that imaginary day in 2056 when you are retired and finally have the time, you can go back and view these images at random to do…stuff with the pictures. You can’t even delete them without pop-ups and multiple-clicks. I just can’t even with this interface.
Some people appear to use them as inspiration for future DIY projects. As a teen, I would make collages from fashion magazines and Delia’s catalogues of all the stuff I’d wear when I became rail-thin and smooth-haired. It feels exactly like that.
“Some day,” says exhausted mother wearing four days worth of spit-up on her sweatshirt, “I will really get my act together and build a chicken coop from scratch. This will come in handy when I want to remember the best color scheme for the interior.”
This should be illegal. Seriously – why do we need to add this mental clutter when we already have perfect families in every ad to make us feel inferior?
None of us will ever have time for this nonsense
When we do have an ounce of time, are we going to zip over to Pinterest to figure out what to do with it? Or are we going to start on some project that is so important it doesn’t require a bookmark because it lives in our guts?
If/When that free time comes, we will be working on the stuff that our hearts are constantly begging us to do.
We don’t need a reminder about the dreams that matter
If the project you wake up and go to bed thinking about for years is building the ultimate chicken coop, then you won’t need pinspiration to get going. I just don’t get how this poorly-designed obligation list, this reminder of all the stuff we are not doing can possibly be healthy.
All of this is a minor complaint – this is why I consider it harmful and silly and dumb.
But my big beef, the reason I HATE Pinterest with the passion of a thousand fiery kittens-who-happen-to-be-on-fire, is because it seems specifically designed for women to compare themselves to a curated collection of perfection
Pinterest is a collection of the prettiest bits of the internet. When I accidentally land on Pinterest board (I blocked the site from my browser, but it sneaks in sometimes), I get the impression that the pinner is doing a billion awesome things all the time. No amount of reason and logic can shut off the feeling that I’m failing to catch up in a big way.
It’s impossible no to compare my every-day with someone’s curated highlight reel
Pinterest gives the impression that billions of people are doing billions of cool things every day. It doesn’t matter that in reality it’s a billion people who each did one pretty cool thing. Cripes, look at how many people have it together enough to wallpaper a chicken coop to coordinate perfectly with the squash blossoms in the background.
We see images of a smiling newborn with plump pink skin on a soft blanket in a basket and think “Well, I thought Sam was cute but I wish he didn’t have gray skin and all of this fur on his forehead.”
We see images of siblings cavorting in tall grasses, back-lit by late golden sun and wonder why our kids use sunset as a sign that it’s time to have a 45-minute meltdown about getting the wrong spoon.
Here is a depressing exercise:
Go ahead and do a google image search for “child portrait pinterest.”
Then do a google image search for “child stock photography.”
What you’ll find is that the stock photos – literally images made to be so bland and lacking in individuality that they are designed to be used for hundreds of ad campaigns, have more personality than the Pinterest portraits.
When I come across images of a serene little man in a bow-tie, sitting in a rusty wagon on an empty dirt path, all I really know from these portraits is that his parents have great taste in outfits and have no fear of skin lacerations or tetanus.
If I was a better parent, would tetanus not be an issue? Maybe there is some book I should be reading on how to keep my child from immediately vaulting himself off antique furniture. Is there a baby-yoga class that teaches a toddler to keep his hands off sharp things?
What kind of mother am I that I haven’t found a small field somewhere and cleared all the ticks so my children may play in a Waldorf-inspired setting?
These are ACTUAL THOUGHTS that show up in my brain.
I come across these images and can’t help but compare my kids to this blander-than-blandness. I’m reminded that my parenting is clearly lacking because we don’t live in Green Gables and my kids won’t sit still for a freaking minute.
So, now that I’ve turned off 50 Pinterest-loving moms, hopefully there is one left saying “YES, THIS!”
Our kids deserve so much more than this hazily over-exposed, pastel-pennant & staged wicker tea-party illusion.
They deserve to know that the parts we love and want to remember about them are the things that make them different from every other kid
Let’s showcase how unique and freaking AWESOME our kids can be. They need to see that the pictures we hang on the wall and the stories worth documenting are the ones of them being themselves – not some cookie-cutter ideal. Let’s explore the environments and interests that have significance to them.
If she smiles, I want her to smile because her dad is throwing her up in the air and she knows she has the best dad ever.
When he grows up, I want him to have pictures of his first days home that show how exhausted and hectic and utterly full of joy his parents became when he entered the world.
Let’s get those authentic images of amazing, better-than-ideal imperfections.
I want to show my son how much I appreciate his weirdness, even though he always insists on wearing his pants backwards. Especially because he always wears his pants backwards.
As a portrait photographer switching from fine art to family, I’ve been wrestling lately with whether to provide pictures that I think my clients want – these boring, sweet Pinterest-friendly portraits, or the work I’m proud of and that will invoke actual memories of how life was together.
It’s time for me to step up and have some integrity. I have some promises to make.
I solemnly swear to prioritize personality over perfection.
I solemnly swear to find beauty in every day routines, messes and natural environments.
I solemnly swear to help my people – people who appreciate the gifts of everyday
I solemnly swear to spend my time and energy helping families recognize the hidden joy they are missing.
I solemnly swear never to waste the light of dusk wedging a child into a rusty antique in the middle of nowhere.
You’ve come this far, and I hope this means you are one of my people. Tell me that I’m not alone. Join the email list to stay in touch.