Pinterest is the latest social media craze but should you jump on board? Stephanie Pegler reports.
Hands up if you are the type of person to rip images from magazines to file away must-have fashion, must-try recipes and must-see holiday destinations.
Then there is a very good chance that Pinterest – this year’s social media breakout success story which reached the 10-million-visitors-a-month mark in record time – has already piqued your interest.
It’s an online pinboard that allows you to store and share photos or videos you find on the net. Users can create boards according to their interests. Brides-to-be can compile photos of their dream wedding; homeowners can collect images for their kitchen makeover; animal lovers can display photos of cute critters; and avid readers can share their must-read books. Authors can use it to showcase their book covers or create a storyboard of the characters and settings for their next book.
Pinterest reportedly has nearly 18 million users at the moment. Despite concerns about users violating copyright – Pinterest has just amended its terms of conditions and advises people to only pin images they have created or have a licence to use – it is unlikely that this legal cloud will slow its momentum.
Pinterest is very simple to use – you attach Pin It to your bookmarks, then simply click a button when you want to pin an online photo to one of your boards. The original site where you viewed the photo remains attached, which is very useful if you later want to return to it, perhaps to buy the item.
You can also upload an image directly from your computer. Or you can repin photos from other people’s boards and follow users or their individual boards.
Dreamed up by former Google staffer Ben Silbermann in late 2009, Pinterest was launched in March 2010, when he invited people in his private network to join. Tech website Mashable recently named it the hottest start-up of 2012.
Joining is invite only – direct from the site or by a user. If you don’t know anyone already using the site, go to pinterest.com and click on “Request an invite”. My requested invite took several days to come through, whereas my own invite to my daughter came through immediately (she says it’s no way as cool as Tumblr but there must be loads of teens on it if the One Direction repins are anything to go by).
Pinterest has become a bit of a sisterhood – it’s dominated by women, with most users falling into the 25-44 age category. Most use Pinterest as an ideas factory to showcase their personal style and interests. For many, it is just like ripping pictures out of a magazine or window shopping. Some media have referred to users as the “scrapbooking set”.
While it is easy to pin, the search engine within the Pinterest site doesn’t particularly cut it for the Goggle generation. Several times I’ve tried to refind an image without any luck.
The site also gives you the option to search through 32 categories from Architecture to Kids and Sports, where you can browse the images that people have pinned. My favourite is the Prints and Posters one, where people collect inspirational or funny quotes and pictures.
You cannot pin photos directly from Facebook nor does there seem to be a way to keep your pinboard private. But you can link your pins to your Facebook newsfeed and there is also an iPhone app too.
But be warned, many users say it is highly addictive.
Lea, 22, multimedia student, from Randers, Denmark
Lea was an early user of Pinterest, joining back in May last year through a regular blog she followed. “It’s been a part of my daily activities online since,” she said. “I use it to gain inspiration for my work as multimedia designer, and my life in general.”
Lea mainly uses it to pin images in the fields of graphic design, home decor and fashion.
“I find it really different from Facebook and Twitter, to me those are places where people share stuff that will make them look better and it’s all about their own lives. Where Pinterest is, at least for me, not based on my friends and what they post, … I choose who I like to follow based on what they pinned and that is more appealing to me.”
Lea admits to spending about two to three hours browsing on Pinterest at a time. “The great thing about Pinterest is that you can search on specific subjects if you need inspiration for eg. Christmas and you can also just spend time looking through the different categories.”
Better than medicine
Jeanette, 48, homemaker, from Alabama, USA
Jeanette’s daughter told her about Pinterest and she joined in November 2011. “People share the greatest things on it. From crafts to recipes. You can learn so much from a picture if you just sit back and look at it,” she says.
Jeanette says time spent on Pinterest has proved beneficial to her health.
“I have an illness that can cause me to stress out and be uptight. My muscles tense and I used to have problems relaxing them and believe it or not, Pinterest does this for me. It is so relaxing and stimulating at the same time. I have a friend who has a similar thing I have and she has noticed the same relaxation and calming that I did. You come up with a board and then start searching Pinterest or even the web and the next thing you know, as for me, I have 80 Boards · 3448 Pins · 283 Likes within months.”
Her boards include interests in music, food, travel and animals.
“I spend more time on Pinterest than I do Facebook and Twitter. I used to be on Facebook alot and I mean alot, but when I feel like I need calming time, like a warm bath or comfort food, well Pinterest is that for me.”
Jeanette says sometimes she can spent three to four hours on it at a time. “Even longer at night when I cannot sleep. I make sure my boards are neat and there are no duplicates and then I go and search out what others have pinned and repin them to mine or go on the web and search out something different I want. I follow people and they follow me. It is the best thing that has ever happened to someone who uses it for health reasons. It is better than medications I have at times.”
Stephanie Pegler is an Australian journalist and founder of the Chicklit Club website. You can find her on Pinterest at pinterest.com/steph25clc/ where her boards reflect her interests in books, films, music, 80s culture, posters and more.