Last fall, when my dear friend (our very own Bitter en Zoet, to be exact) suggested I join Pinterest, I must admit that my first reaction was: I can’t possibly handle another something to continuously check and update. My second reaction, though, after opening her invitation and browsing her first few pins, was: what a lovely idea for a guestroom. Between a quiet photo of pink buds in the snow and a stark pen-and-ink drawing of tree trunks labeled “For the bath,” I noticed a downy mess of a bed, brimming with pillows in soft colors, in front of white beadboard. My friend had pinned it as an idea for her basement, and I suddenly felt inspired to board a plane for Europe, knock on her door, snuggle myself into that basement bedroom and wake up to a morning of croissants and tea and conversation at what I could only imagine would be some perfect little breakfast nook in her fresh and well-lit kitchen.
Now, half a year into my relationship with the virtual pinboard, this is the scene at my desk most mornings:
Not to be too dramatic about it, but this act of ‘pinning,’ of virtually tacking images up onto a crisp white online ‘board,’ is a remarkably affirming activity. I collect images of my dream home (clawfoot tubs, bright airy kitchens with open shelves, old-world tiled floors, front porches, exposed brick walls, antique crystal chandeliers, bright yellow doors), my fantasy backyard (mostly things that belong alongside a cottage in the English countryside), and my ideal wardrobe. With each push of that little ‘Pin It’ button, I feel as if I’m saying to the world: I love this, or this says something about who I am.
Surely people with more Zen in their blood might find the whole ordeal problematic—as in: there’s too much wanting, too much coveting, too much staring at the computer screen, not enough acceptance of one’s present moment, etc etc—but to me, gathering things I love and crave makes me feel more myself. Even though many of those things are far off in my future, or perhaps not in my future at all, seeing all of them accumulated on my screen reminds me of what I want and where I want to go.
This is the charm and the (intoxicating, addictive) allure of Pinterest: to surround oneself with the things one finds beautiful, even if (or perhaps especially if) those things cannot, for whatever reason, be a part of everyday life. In interviews, the founders of Pinterest refer in almost every sentence to beauty—in relation to their design concept, their original inspiration, their vision for the connection between their community of users. Complete strangers befriend each other based upon a shared aesthetic. Users get to know each other by the things each finds particularly lovely or eye-catching. (At this point, I hear echoes of the voice of a writer I very much admire, saying to me: you must learn to write about the things you love with more restraint. But, alas, here I go:) On Pinterest, we are allowed a bit of space to bring together the pieces of our fantasy lives. We listen to ourselves there, we pay attention to what excites us. And although I say this with absolutely no scientific or medical chops whatsoever, there must be something indisputably therapeutic about this daily exercise in imagination.