Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pinterest: The Useful Tool

... as opposed to Pinterest: The Pointless Time Suck

I recognize that it's passé to say "I love Pinterest." There's probably some newer, cooler social media-linked image filing system out there. But you're reading the words of someone who still has an AOL account* and still uses blogger**.  Trust me, I'm actually a fairly with-it person. Did you hear that song by Carly Rae Jepsen? Well, I did. That's how with-it I am.

You didn't know that you needed
to see this baby otter until you
found Pinterest.
I love Pinterest, and not just because one of my friends has a pinboard entitled "Wouldn't Kick Him Out of Bed For Eating Crackers" that is filled with pics of hot actors. No, I love it because I think it is actually a useful (and green!) way of organizing images and ideas.

For example, let's think about the old way of organizing ideas, recipes, etc. - the way my mom did back in the early 80's. My mom was a lot like a modern mom blogger before blogs - she baked, sewed, knitted, etc. Of course, it wasn't a trend then. It was just something you did. And she had a variety of paper-based systems for organizing her ideas for projects:

  • a recipe box filled with recipe cards, most of which were hand-written. A few were recipes torn from magazines and then glued onto cards. Some others were torn from magazines and crammed into the box.
  • a binder where she kept pages she'd ripped out of magazines for decorating or fashion ideas she wanted to remember
  • stacks of magazines or catalogs with folded down pages, meant to be perused later
You might be thinking... that sounds awfully familiar. It does to me, because I adopted a very similar "system," although mine consisted of a lot of folders.

But with Pinterest, you don't have to waste any paper (or space in your house.)  There's no need to print out articles or recipes that you want to remember, or to keep a folder of bookmarks on your browser. There's just the simplicity of hitting that little button on the tool bar with a red P in a circle.

Now, you might be thinking, this is nice, but is it REALLY useful? It's not just another way for American consumerist society to take up more corners in our lives?

Take that, Gyllenhaal.
Of course it is. The internet begat easier and easier ways to fill one's home with more stuff, while also begetting a movement of connected (mostly female) bloggers who are sharing the ways that they live more sustainably and creatively. So does Pinterest beget people who pin slightly alarming pictures of Jake Gyllenhaal naked in a bathtub (no, I'm not going to link to it. Do your own dirty work), while also resulting in folks who use it for organizing their work or life.

Here are some of the ways I actually use Pinterest to make life easier:
  • To make stuff.  If you've been on Pinterest for five seconds, no doubt you've seen some pretty amazing recipes for things like "Black Bottomed Mini Caramel Cheesecake Bites" and "Fig and Goat Cheese Pizza" (totally re-pinning that). It's a lot like having subscriptions to a schizophrenic collection of cooking magazines, some dedicated to desserts that will cause instant heart attacks, others to eating healthy. And don't let's get started on the craft ideas! I have boards dedicated to crafts and to food. You're probably wondering, then, if this is useful or just wish-fulfillment -- am I simply creating the idea of a crafty life? Well, no. I've actually made a skirt that I saw on Pinterest, tried recipes, etc. Will I make it all? No. But I also won't make all of the recipes in my Cooking Light subscription, or in the knitting magazines I've bought, and no trees died for my pinboard.
  • To share ideas. Because Pinterest allows you to share pinboards with friends, it can be a really cool way to create together. For example, I lead a Girl Scout troop with three other volunteers. We used to send each other random emails with ideas for crafts and cookouts. The emails just got lost, the ideas forgotten. Now, however, we have a shared pinboard and so before a campout, say, we can go to our board and look at the ideas we have shared to create our plan. My friend Melanie, who really likes home decoration, created shared boards with me to help me with ideas for my new house. Without those pinboards, I'd probably have an empty home right now.
  • For inspiration. I like to save pictures. I'm a little bit of an image hoarder. I have a whole file drawer filled with images I've cut out of magazines. Why? What do I do with them? Well, when I'm writing a story, I often create a kind of "mood board" for the story (until moving and sharing the home pinboards with Melanie, I probably wouldn't have known to call them mood boards) It's MUCH more efficient to create these mood boards through pinning - no flipping through magazines or digging through files.
  • For lookin' cool. Or... cool-ish? I have a little bit of trouble putting together outfits and figuring out how to do my hair. Lately, however, I've gotten a lot of comments like, "How do you do your hair like that? That's so cool." The answers: a) bobby pins; b) Pinterest. Pinterest is full of easy to replicate, real-life fashion ideas. I know that sounds trivial, but most of the fashion world is not meant to be re-created by actual humans.
  • To find pictures of Daniel Craig. Because, after all, are you going to kick him outta bed for eating crackers?

* The God's honest truth.
** Someone younger than me at work has declared that "Blogs are dead." I'll run and tell my blog right now.

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