Why Women Are Obsessed with Pinterest
"Men are more visual than women." It's a refrain we've all heard to explain the differences between men's and women's sexuality. If you want proof of the contrary, look no further than Pinterest.
What is Pinterest? TechCrunch describes it as a "self-expression engine" along the lines of Twitter and Facebook. Users can create virtual "mood boards" or "vision boards" on which they can collect images. Users can create separate boards for any kind of interest—fashion, art, books, decor, crafts, recipes, workout ideas, inspirational quotes—and "pin" to those boards images that reflect their style and tastes. Users can share these curated collections with friends or inspired strangers. The community is a large part of the draw—users can browse and search the entire network, which now includes over 1.5 million actives users (the majority of whom are women).
I am one of them. I first heard of the site a few months ago. A friend insisted I had to join and rapturously boasted she'd "wasted so many hours" poring over pages of pins (she assured me this was a good thing, and after a few minutes on the site I would realize she was right on both counts). I now have six different boards to which I regularly post. They're mostly of clothes I can't afford but like to look at, and a few home decor ideas I'll never try but would like to think I could. As of right now, I follow 65 people: mostly friends, but a few I don't know but have decided have excellent (read: similar) taste. And 65 people follow me, including more than a few I have never met. And I have spent many hours scrolling through page after page of recipes, hair styles, incredible home libraries, and vintage cookware, looking for inspiration. What I thought would be a mindless time waster has become an active pursuit, and I tend to my boards as one might a garden. Whenever I get an e-mail that someone new is following my boards, I feel validated in my tastes, and, in some small way, in myself.
So what does all this say about the ways in which women are visual? Why do so many women spend so much time seeking out images to pin? Some users simply want a place to track things they don't want to forget. Wedding planning seems to be a popular theme, as do crafting, cooking, and decorating. Many items are accompanied by comments like "I want this!" or "I need to try this!" Workouts, recipes, and "thinspiration" images motivate users to get in shape, and DIY crafting and home improvement ideas inspire project ideas. "Research has shown that making a ‘vision board' with pictures of things that inspire you to live healthier are more effective than writing goals on a piece of paper or just resolving to do them in your mind," says a Shape article entitled, "Can Pinterest Change Your Life?" And the site proves that women can be visual in exactly the same ways as men—I've seen more than enough images of shirtless men to confirm this hypothesis. Pinterest seems to be a forum for building up "innocent" fantasies—dream closets, dream homes, dream men—and in this way encouraging consumer tendencies. These fantasies engage both a visual and emotional fantasy that is often disconnected from reality. By collecting and displaying these images, we are laying ourselves and our desire out for all to see.