Am I Serious Enough About Pinterest?

Having just written an "everyone sucks, do it my way instead" post about 23andMe, it's only fair that now I write a "your rules are your rules, not a universal code of conduct" post to balance that out.

I shall write that post about Pinterest, since a) I just fixed my broken Pinterest button (thanks, Pinterest, for changing it without notice), and b) I just happened upon a thoughtful, well-written list of Pinterest tips... which which I heartily disagree.

Pinterest is probably like cruising. We who love it, love it, and therefore there's always an "Oh!" moment when you realize that not only are people approaching it differently, but they're doing so deliberately. Sure, sometimes there's also a "Grr!" moment when some try to convince you that your way is truly wrong and you should convert - the Anytime Dining Wars on Cruise Critic's Carnival board in 2009 being a great example - but usually we can all bond in our shared love and never mind the details.

So, while I gasp in quiet horror at cruisers who book interior cabins (no balcony?!), seek out assigned dining times with strangers (no table for two at our leisure?!), book long excursions into the jungle with third-party companies (what if something happens?!), tan out on the Lido deck (in the sunshine?! away from the trivia games?!), pine for chocolate melting cake (it's just hot cake batter!), doll up for Elegant Night (?!), and refuse to pay an upcharge for spa access (but thalassotherapy + aromatic steam room = soluton to world problems?!), I can still fist-bump said person in the embarkation line. CRUISE! CRUISE! CRUISE! 

Therefore, as I address the Pinterest tips from the article from my perspective, it's just to add another point of view, not to claim that they're wrong. (And also to defend that I'm not wrong, either.)

1. Link your FB, Twitter, and website to your Pinterest profile.

For many people this is great, no-brainer advice, but I don't link to my website because my Pinterest is integrated with Facebook. I don't want to promote my website to my Facebook friends. Or my Twitter. I don't have any illusions that a lazy stalker couldn't easily put together all of my online presence, but part of my justification for all of the indulgent writing I do here is that I don't exactly beckon people to come see it. Again, mine is a less common case, but the lack of link is deliberate, not a social media gaffe.

2. Use the same avatar as one at your other social media outlets.

I don't really get this because if it's true on one social media site, why not all of them? Or are Facebook and Twitter big/ubiquitous enough to be able to handle a new avatar while Pinterest is not?

Facebook avatar: last photo of me with Mike before he left for Australia
Twitter avatar: photo of Dudley, our former hamster
Flickr avatar: photo of Cordelia, another former hamster
Google-Plus avatar: photo of me, holding a baby lion
Pinterest avatar: photo of Amy, a hamster we didn't adopt but who is dreadfully cute

Apparently I have a hamster theme going, but it's unintentional. I change my avatars based on mood and context. 

I'm really, really uninterested in personal branding. I know that might sound a little odd coming from the person who snagged (and sometimes offers merch to commemorate your visit), but all of that is just me having fun. The idea of deliberately putting forth a unified image in order to be more recognizable to strangers isn't something I can really get behind unless the goal is to make money or promote a very specific message. Another case of "not bad advice, but doesn't fit me at all" (with a dollop of surprise that it would apply to the majority of Pinterest's members).

3. Put up a short bio.

Here we could get into the old debate about the importance of context. For me, bios are nice, but as much as I normally like extra info with my literature, I usually don't really care about pinners, just their pins.

Maybe we can amend "It is the story, not he who tells it" to "It is the pin, not she who pins it."

What can I write in 200 characters that will make my pins more satisfying for you? Isn't getting to know someone through images part of the allure of Pinterest? How else would I know that my former co-worker, a solid, serious math teacher, has a playful fashion sense and is thinking about getting a tattoo?

For me, in the sphere of Pinterest, I rather like the idea of my pins alone crafting an identity.

4. Carefully choose and crop your board covers.

Ha! I actually found the tip article because I was Googling for a way to get rid of my carefully chosen and cropped board covers. I have a few boards whose covers I only customized because the most recent pin didn't do the board justice or its default crop was ugly. Now that I've pinned more, I'd like for some of those board covers to go back to changing regularly.

I totally understand this tip, though. I hate when my board covers are ugly, but sometimes it's worth it to keep a little variety in there. (Also, I thought that only one of the author's examples of ugly covers was conventionally unattractive, so taste varies.)

It's telling that the author likens choosing a board cover to trying to sell a book based on its jacket. I know that some people enjoy curating their Pinterest boards for a potentially wide public audience, so they are very audience-aware in what they pin, how much they pin, how they organize their pins, and so forth. 

Others, like me, will invite you to come play on Pinterest, but we made the playground for ourselves, not for you. We hope you like it, but if not... shrug.

(Kind of like my website, the decor in my living room, the clothes I wear, the car I drive, the tweets I tweet.... the list goes on of things where appealing to others is a non-issue to me, much to the sometimes-horror of my mother-in-law. But again, I'm not saying it's invalid whatsoever to use Pinterest to try to cultivate a following for your ideas. It's just not something that interests me, and I find it curious to see it touted as advice for the mainstream pinner.)

5. Once you have 100 pins in a board, and 10 are on the same topic, start a new board for those pins.

I only have one board with over 100 pins: Vegetarian Pleasures. I'm amused with myself now because I once toyed with the idea of splitting this board up, and I remember my first thought was "but then all of the board followers won't know about the new boards and will miss out on new veggie pins." Oh my. I guess I'm not as loftily immune to the hostess-side of Pinterest as I thought!

I don't disagree with this tip, but I think we all have our own thresholds for organization. I'll probably begin to split up Vegetarian Pleasures when it gets past 250 or 300 items. Right now I really like the idea of having a big board of meatless possibilities for people to consult that isn't health-oriented. So again, there I go thinking about audience. Hmmmm. But, as soon as it becomes unwieldy for me, I'll split it up. No hesitation. 

I'll probably never split up my board of astronomical photos. I'd love to see it get massive, just an endless stream of wonder at the universe. (For now, though, it's a neglected eight pins.) Meanwhile, I have six or seven travel-related boards, some with no more than a couple of pins. Comforting levels of categorization are a very personal thing.

6. Arrange your boards to flow (in a story, or thematically, etc.).

Nope. Not me at all! I rearrange my boards all the time, but it's all according to mood. Do I want to highlight this or that? Have I become more interested in this thing, less interested in that thing? My current top row is Vegetarian Pleasures, Wisdom, Our Forever Home, Those Martha Moments (see, I do have something in common with the tip author!), Snarfle, and I Laughed. When planning our Alaska trip, Yukon Cruisebait was up there. And so on.

I kind of like seeing the discordant juxtaposition of other people's board arrangements. There's even something to be said for people who never arrange them; I can see the progress of their inspiration. I don't have anything against people who try to arrange along a theme, but I do know that I've wandered away from some pinner profiles because board after similar board seemed very samey to me as an outsider. (No way would I suggest changing them, but it just goes to show the perils of trying to please a broad audience.)

7. Make sure your pin goes back to the original source.

I love this tip. I've spent ages trying to find original sources for some pins, sometimes not pinning them because I didn't want to contribute to a creditless Pinterest-loop (especially if a statistic is involved). Google Chrome's add-on to search for similar images can be really helpful with finding an image's source.

However, sometimes I want the pin more than I want to be noble, so I just pin it even if it links to a sourceless Tumblr post. Yep, yep, I do. And sometimes I don't actually check out where the pin's link goes because the pin says it all, which I know is terrible (what if it lands at a hamster-hating site?!).

But since Pinterest leaves a repin-trail, I don't feel too badly about it.

8. Please check pin for spam.

Another great tip. No argument. Like I said, I don't always do it (if the pin stands on its own), but I know I should. (Not because I care about where I send other people, but because I don't want to give hits to spammers.)

9. Don't pin the ugly.

Aw, lost me again. I laughed at the author's comment about pinning at night when no one is looking, but I'm never going to let an ugly photo keep me from pinning a great idea. I just stick my tongue out and look forward to the zillion pretty pins to follow.

10. Don't put the instructions of whatever the pin is in the comments.

My personal preference is to not put instructions if they're really long (and will untidy my "Following" page) or if you can't control your exclamation points. If the instructions are short (that's under seven lines for me) and convince me of the ease of the project, go for it.

11. Don't Facebook and tweet every pin unless it's extra fantastic.

It doesn't have to be extra fantastic for me to enjoy it, but I might hide some of your FB posts if I just see one pin after another. (Keep in mind that we're all different in terms of how much is too much. I once was accused of spamming because I updated my Facebook status once a day.)

That's it! That's my take on these tips. (Quick, to the presses! Crank the newsreel! We've got a story here, boys!)

I'm surprised (that word again) not to see in the article the one piece of advice I would give to all Pinterest users:

Change the pin description if it's not generic.

Generic: Lemon pound cake made with raspberry pudding

Not Generic: This lemon pound cake is AMAZEBALLS. It's the only one my friends beg me to make!

(I don't even know if raspberry pudding exists, but it seems like a fine thing to layer or poke into a lemon cake.)

People who don't change the text beneath a pin when it's written in the first person (but not that person) or is just composed strongly in the voice of another person (a schmoozy corporation or someone with an unseemly love of capital letters), drive me insane.

I sometimes write clearly personal recollections/thoughts with my pins, so it's disconcerting to see those musings repeated verbatim by strangers. You remember the cake at your Mom's 26th birthday when you were four years old, too? Wow.

What bugs me much more, though, is when my friends repeat someone else's description of a pin, and I think they're the ones who wrote it. So there I am, commenting (on the site or in real life), and it turns out they really haven't experienced whatever scenario/emotion was described. 

It's lazy, a little skeezy, and confusing. To me.

But, you know, be lazy, skeezy, and unclear if you want. I'm your follower, not your patron. Be the pinner, not the pin. (I don't know what that means, but it sounds deep and pin-worthy. Please picture it floating above a field of corn or next to a silhouette of a Pomerian hybrid puppy.)

(Comments closed because I always get abused by fanboys when I disagree with an online article, even if I say the article was good. My dictatorship is meek and benevolent, but it's still a dictatorship.)

28 February 2013 |






Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)