So, about Pinterest.

Jim Lambie

I didn’t think Pinterest was for me until one of my oldest friends, one who knows me better than almost anybody, called me out for not using it. As in, you’re crazy for not taking advantage of this resource…

That was six weeks ago and already it’s grown my traffic by a measurable amount (thanks, analytics). Better still, Pinterest – currently one of the fastest growing sites in the world – ranks as my #3 traffic source, right after organic google searches and direct visits. Pinterest is also ad-free at the moment, though there is the occasional and unintrusive sponsored/for sale pin. On Pinterest, there isn’t obsessive self-broadcasting and self-documentation; it’s just about curating and collecting cool stuff. The tone is more “isn’t this awesome?” rather than “look what I had for lunch.”

My friend, she was right.

Yet, I can’t unplug my brain from the rest of the negativity surrounding Pinterest. Snide pie charts mocking women who use Pinterest, wisecracks and reassertions against Pinterest are regularly cropping up in my feeds, and tech analysts and the media (Reuters + AOL, MSN Money) sure as heck don’t know what to make of the women flocking to this tool. And, as we know about online culture, these types of things can easily trigger and rapidly escalate to a place that is counterproductive. I’ve been watching this unravel, doing nothing with the hope it will blow over. I’m not doing nothing now.

Scoping out Pinterest’s home page, I totally understand the backlash. The topic is the day’s most popular content, pulled out of the context of that user’s particular stream. There’s no theme or structure otherwise. Individually, they aren’t inherently bothersome and most likely represent only a fraction of a user’s tastes. But put them together and collectively they are a hot mess of confusion, which doesn’t reflect the real experience of actually using the site, nor the amount of depth it offers. Instead it reads like a Barbie doll or a Cathy comic: exaggerated, out of proportion, and not indicative of reality. This makes it all too easy for the casual visitor to swiftly make their exit without need of return. Ew, indeed.

Still, every social network has its turn-offs. None is perfect; all have flaws and breakages. But it’s as though Pinterest must be bulletproof in order for it to be taken seriously. Which is silly. If any start-up waited until they were fully formed to launch and build users, there wouldn’t be any of them! That’s simply not how start-up culture works.

All of this boils down to the core idea that the site is somehow less worthwhile because women got to it first. It’s as if Pinterest needs a tagline: “No, really, it’s NOT just for women!” This conversation wouldn’t be happening if Pinterest’s early adopters were dudes, no doubt. Who knows if it would even still exist if Ben Silbermann & his team hadn’t decided to offer the first batch of invites to female design bloggers. Yet, he did and – stop the presses – it’s a big stinking deal because it’s never occurred to the world that a group of women can be early adopters of a technology. And as history tells us, women-folk bucking trends always seems to ruffle feathers.

Sure, Pinterest is dominated by women’s interests right now. Who says the site can’t grow and change? Who says there aren’t some open-minded guys out there who are willing to wade past the make-up tutorials and cupcake food porn to balance the playing field? Curating and sharing content is clearly not a behavior that will go away anytime soon, who knows, maybe Pinterest will fade into the background as similar sites like Gimme Bar and Dropmark emerge. (Both are still in beta, which means they are exclusive, still developing features, and can’t even begin to touch Pinterest’s growth yet.)

I don’t even really care how it plays out, I just don’t want it to be segregated and I don’t want to feel like I have to justify using a tool that is so obviously working for me & many others. Use it or don’t use it, but ragging on what doesn’t work for you is pretty declassé if you ask me. Capisce? Good. Now, how’s about we get back to getting inspired, making stuff, and sharing stuff shall we?

Like the eye candy? Well, there’s plenty more, I don’t think I need to tell you where. #1 is Tangerine Dream by Jim Lambie, pinned by Chloé Douglas of Plenty of Color, #2 is a vintage tattoo, pinned by My Love For You, #3 is vintage buttons pinned by Christen Carter.

Thanks to Elizabeth Giorgi at The Mary Sue for inspiring this and supplying many of the sources. And also to Kate Singleton for directing my attention to this in the first place. Hugs + high fives, sisters.

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