The problem with Pinterest.

By November 28, 2012Uncategorized

No, I’m not here to talk about copyright violations or creator credit. That’s been said over and over again regarding Pinterest.

Emily Snuffer

I’m here to talk about Pinterest and its negative effects on our ability to be creative.

Pinterest has been bothering me for quite some time for the reason I just stated above. I’m about to dive into several reasons why I think this, but know this: I am a user of Pinterest. I have boards and add pins almost daily. I’ve blogged about Pinterest. Pinterest is the #3 traffic driver to my site, as it is for many, many other bloggers. (For you non-bloggers reading this, Pinterest is a traffic gold mine for us bloggers.)

What’s the problem with Pinterest and creativity, you ask? Here are my reasons.

Reason #1: Pinterest is not a source of inspiration. It’s a collection of completed ideas.

I’ve heard so many people say they use Pinterest as a source of inspiration. I’ve done this as well. Inspiration, of course, is a key pillar of creativity. The word, “pinspiration” is becoming common vernacular. Inspiration is defined as, “being aroused with a spirit to do something, by or as if by divine or supernatural influence.” Inspiration is noticing a cool pattern on the napkin while dining at your favorite restaurant. Inspiration is the “ah-ha!” when you discover how much you love the dark tree branches against your neighbor’s white fence. Inspiration is eating the cilantro rice at Chipotle and realizing how good that might taste as a frozen popsicle. It’s a divine intervention. It’s a collapsing of two ideas into one that suddenly makes a whole lot of sense.

Inspiration is NOT searching Pinterest. Pinterest is a collection of finished projects well past the point of inspiration. Let’s think about gourmet chefs for a second. When a chef wants inspiration for a new recipe, does the chef look at a cookbook full of completed recipes? Probably not. When we search Pinterest for inspiration, it’s nearly impossible to take the projects we find and make them our own. Instead of using the pin as a source of true inspiration (maybe the color, or the pattern, or the type of photography), we feel the desire to re-create what we’ve just pinned. And then we never get around to actually doing it. And then we feel bad about it. It’s a negative, infinite cycle.

Emily Snuffer

Reason #2: Pinterest is replacing our own personal, unique style.

Pinterest is one big trend machine. Trends have always existed in our lives, but Pinterest brings trends (complete with photos! tutorials!) front and center to our phones and computers every second of every day. We are barraged with trends more so now than ever before. For example, when I search for “wall art” on Pinterest, the same thing comes up over and over again. Gallery walls. Gallery walls are a HUGE trend and have been for awhile. After seeing 100 pins of gallery walls, it can be persuasive to think gallery walls are the way to go. But are they? Are we putting gallery walls up because we like them? Maybe you truly do. But, how much is Pinterest controlling our decision process when it comes to thinking creatively? This is the risk we run when we use Pinterest as a source for ideas. We’re finding trends cleverly disguised as ideas that might not represent who we really are.

Here’s another example. Weddings. Pinterest and weddings are out of control. The top search result of any type of wedding idea on Pinterest has to do with these elements: rustic, lace, book crafts, mason jars, billy buttons, banners, pendants, wood, refinished furniture, birds, folk, trees, etc. I can’t tell you how many weddings I’ve seen that are HEAVILY Pinterest influenced. Guests say, “She must love Pinterest!” Don’t we want our weddings guests to say, “This wedding is so THEM.”?

Emily Snuffer

For those of you lamenting that your wedding was before the days of Pinterest, you are LUCKY. You have a wedding that reflected who you truly are. Your wedding was unique, original and just for you. That is something to protect and be proud of. Don’t sell your wedding soul to Pinterest.

Reason #3: Pinterest gets credit even for truly original ideas.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this next scenario happen. Someone brings something really neat to a party (most recently it was alcoholic Little Hugs) and the first response is, “So neat! Did you find that on Pinterest?” Nope. This person thought it up with their very own, creative brain. No Pinterest needed. But even so, Pinterest gets credit for ideas made outside of the vacuum that is Pinterest, because that’s the expectation these days. If it’s creative, it must be from Pinterest, right? I’m using sarcasm there. It’s frustrating.

Reason #4: Pinterest promotes a copy-cat culture.

I’ve mentioned this a few times already in regards to trends, but let me put a fine point on it here. Pinterest promotes recycling of ideas instead of coming up with new ideas, which hampers our creativity. Pinterest makes it easy for us to avoid using the creative side of our brains. Let’s do another food reference. When ordering from a restaurant, we’re not worried about being creative, so we grab for a menu. We look at what’s available to us and select what we’d like to eat. The table after us does the same thing and has the same selections to choose from. This happens over and over again. This is Pinterest. A menu of choices meant to be copied (eaten) over and over again by folks. But what’s beyond that “menu” that we might be missing?

That’s all I’ve got.

I guess all of this to say, we need to keep true to ourselves – to our taste and personal style. We need to use Pinterest as a way to bookmark what WE love and what WE do, as individuals. Don’t allow Pinterest to control how you decorate a home, plan a party or buy a gift.

I’ll keep pinning, but I’m steering clear of the search bar.

xo, emily

p/s: Also I love this post titled, “Taking Back My Wedding from Pinterest.” Especially the part where Hannah talks about that, in our effort to be original and unique, we’re becoming all the same thanks to Pinterest.

Join the discussion 33 Comments

  • Liz says:

    Would it be weird if I pinned the link to this post? haha I kid.
    In all seriousness, I’m with you all the way. Pinterest is a great venue to bookmark ideas, but has really become a complete source for people from weddings to house ideas. Definitely takes away from originality. On the other hand, I see that it has encouraged. creativity in people who arent normally creative.
    Great post, thanks!

    • emily @ go haus go says:

      Hahaha. Pin away! And yes, I agree. These arguments are more for the folks who strive to be creative and original but are using Pinterest to do that. I completely agree it’s nice for non-creative folks (I definitely have those phases, too!) to have ideas and instructions at their fingertips.

  • I relate to a lot of what you’ve said here, but I think #3 struck a particular chord with me. While I was home for Thanksgiving, I heard more than one person say something along the lines of “a Pinterest recipe” or “oh, it’s from Pinterest.” And it really sort of annoyed the heck out of me, because I thought how nothing on Pinterest is by Pinterest. And how would I feel if someone tried one my DIY tutorials and then told a friend that it was a “Pinterest DIY”?! It just hurt my heart, really, and somehow made this whole blogging thing feel so…corporate and faceless when what it’s really supposed to be is this very personal kind of things where you get to be yourself…not Pinterest. Anyway, nice post.

  • Totally agree, with #2 especially! Over-done trends are one of my biggest pet peeves in life, and Pinterest is making them much worse.

    Excellent point about it not really being inspiration, I never thought of that.

  • Emily R. says:

    I wish I could make more boards secret! I want a good place to bookmark things but not add to the culture. Plus I hate seeing what I categorize as thinspiration. {end of rant}

    • Di says:

      Check out Springpad. I have been using it to mark and record all sorts of things and really like it. And you can make individual records (notebooks etc) private or public.

  • i agree on most fronts with what you are saying, but the only thing I would say in regards to weddings and the most highly searched terms is that pinterest is very reflective of what is trending right now. i am in the wedding industry (i do sales for a high end venue) and those terms are the hot “keywords” for styles that people are loving right now. i don’t think this is caused BY pinterest, but that people just happening to be pinning a lot of these things because they are “IN”, just like they would have cut out pictures from magazines that would feature these trends before the days of pinterest.

    Just food for thought!

  • Gah! I totally agree. I do pin “inspiration images” as far as interiors are concerned, when an especially nice room strikes me, but then I don’t turn around and try to recreate it to a T.
    I had my wedding riiiiiight before Pinterest blew up (2010), and I had mason jars, pennant/bunting, wildflowers, maps, etc. and I LOVED my wedding. I came up with those details! Now that those things are so Pinterest-cliche, I find myself hanging my head in shame and being embarrassed of being so “cliche,” even though Pinterest did not play any kind of role in my planning process. I shouldn’t have to feel that way, but I do!
    I don’t have a tidy wrap up thought to end this rant comment, but all this is to say, I totally feel you. And I do agree Pinterest is killing creativity.

  • I totally agree! “It’s so Pinterest” is becoming the phrase to describe a bunch of the weddings we’ve been going to!

  • Gabbi says:

    100% agree. you hit the nail on the head.

  • […] magazine, but I had a desperately hard time finding actual inspiration in any of my searches. Go Haus Go wrote extensively on the Pinterest problem over a year ago, and it seems like the issue has only gotten […]

  • Mindy says:

    ugh, SO well said. Such a double edged sword and of course as a creative in the service industry, it can definitely hinder my work as a party stylist and wedding photographer. No I did not see it on pinterest, I thought of it myself!

  • […] profound,  “Pinterest is not a source of inspiration, it’s a collection of completed ideas“ (The Problem With Pinterest). Such an interesting thought. Is that why as artists we can sometimes we feel discouraged by […]

  • […] profound: “Pinterest is not a source of inspiration, it’s a collection of completed ideas“ (The Problem With Pinterest). Such an interesting thought. Is that why as artists we can sometimes feel discouraged by […]

  • […] profound: “Pinterest is not a source of inspiration, it’s a collection of completed ideas“ (The Problem With Pinterest). Such an interesting thought. Is that why as artists we can sometimes feel discouraged by […]

  • […] is not a source of inspiration, it’s a collection of completed ideas“ (The Problem With Pinterest). Such an interesting thought. Is that why as artists we can sometimes feel discouraged by […]

  • I think you misunderstand what inspiration means. I mean VanGogh (and whatnot) didn’t go to museums to find artworks to copy and maybe tweak. They had their own ideas, and looked to the old masters (as VanGogh did extensively) for ways to improve. Be it techniques, compositions, color combinations.

    If you don’t know in the first place what to create, and need images to give you a drive to do something… then I would feel you’re in the wrong profession. Find the one that drives you by itself.

  • […] Here’s another one supporting our thoughts […]

  • […] is not a source of inspiration, it’s a collection of completed ideas“ (The Problem With Pinterest). Such an interesting thought. Is that why as artists we can sometimes feel discouraged by […]

  • Marybeth says:

    First I want to say that I adore your blog and your style. The ostrich wallpaper in the bathroom just kills me. I love that it is visually interesting and funny, like, as if the ostrich is giving you privacy in the bathroom by buring his head. I love it so much.

    I realize I am a couple of years late to this debate, but I wanted to add my two cents to the Pinterest story. I get the down side to pinterest, but for the most part, I think it is an amazing tool. When I use pinterest, I try to force myself to discern before I pin. Do I like the pretty picture or is it something I would really want in my home, want to eat, want to wear, etc. And I do always go back and browse my own boards to remind myself of what inspired me, what I would like to try and I edit my boards, too, deleting things that I am no longer interested in. I think with pinterest, you get out of it what you put into it.


    • Hey Beth! I think that’s such a great point and yes, I agree with you, Pinterest is a great tool! I use it nearly every day to capture and organize what I’m liking. I do think it’s a slippery slope though. I guess all I am asking is that for people to draw inspiration from many sources, not just Pinterest. In my experience, the result is so much better!

  • […] can stifle creativity. It can fill your head with false ideas of […]

  • This. Is. MONEY. Thank you for this article. Seriously. I am a photographer, and I can’t tell you how often this has come up and went down EXACTLY as you laid out so well. Nothing worse than arriving to a home to photograph someone, and there’s an iPad sitting out with Pinterest open to just recreate those exact shots. At that point, they’re nearly just renting pro gear with a little assistance in decent lighting and someone else pressing the shutter button. 😛

  • […] is not a source of inspiration, it’s a collection of completed ideas“ (The Problem With Pinterest). Such an interesting thought. Is that why as artists we can sometimes feel discouraged by […]

  • Vanessa says:

    Hi Emily: I am reading from the early days to the present, something I love to do with new-to-me blogs, and this is my first comment. I’m 53 and don’t really use pinterest so my perspective is wildly different, but here goes: You are right and wrong. Pinterest is no different than magazines of 40 years ago, high society of 200 years ago, whatever we used 500 years ago to convey our status or health. I am pretty sure it is the same human behavior, repeated. As humans we are just sort of stuck because we have to let other people know that we are smart and similar. On the other hand you are completely right, we do copy each other, that is how we define the tribe we belong to (or wish we belonged to). When I got married 26 yrs ago, I had a dress, my husband had a tux, there was a bridesmaid and best man. We ate rubber chicken and because it was close to Christmas, there were poinsettias on the alter – not the most creative endeavor of mine but it was suitable. These days, I am sure it would be different visually and it would probably be from the inter-net that I was inspired. Anyway keep up the good work!

  • Leo Martin says:

    100% true, took the words out of my mouth!

  • Nicole Franco says:

    Personally, you couldn’t have said it any better. I have never thought of the possible repercussions that a site such as Pinterest could have on its users. In my particular case, Pinterest is not a huge part of my daily routine, however when I do use it, I’ll admit that it’s usually because I don’t want to take the time to come up with a cute idea by myself. The same goes for all other forms of social media. It seems as though we create these accounts (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to show the world the person we WANT to be instead of the person we really are. Once one person comes up with a catchy word or phrase, social media instantly lights up with the same word or phrase until it is no longer the “cool” thing to say. Social media is becoming the ultimate driving force in today’s society and not in a positive way. All it has to show for itself is its ability to create a sense of laziness and false achievement.

  • Kelsey says:

    I do not agree completely with this thought process. Although I do agree that Pinterest can definitely take away from certain aspects of ‘original’ creativity, it is very helpful for the people who tend to lack that little bit of an artsy side or outlook on life. I know from personal experience that I have gotten on Pinterest and used the base idea of a project that I had found, but completely changed it into something that is totally mine. Today’s society gives so much credit to Pinterest for all things crafty because we live in a society that is so lazy. It’s hard to imagine that a person would actually put in the effort to think of something on their own, but I still think Pinterest has helped others spark a creativity all their own vs. if they had never used an outside source to begin with.

  • Hannah says:

    I totally agree with #3. I think a lot of the time if someone make or creates something people just sort of assume they got the idea from Pinterest. A lot of the time they are probably correct. We tend to be so shocked when people actually respond with “No, I created/made this myself.” So, I can see where you are coming from with your points.

  • Somehow I stumbled upon this post from way-back-when. I don’t think I was a reader of your blog at the time. Funny … everything you said still resonates today! To take it a step further, I get so tired of Pinterest getting credit for everything. Pinterest does not but in the blood, sweat and tears, people. Pinterest does not have the ideas or do the work. Pinterest is, like you said, just a collection of finished ideas.

    These days I’m so sick of all the ads, and Pinterest suggesting things it thinks I might like, rather than me being able to see the feeds of the people I’m following. I hardly use it for browsing any more, more so for pinning reminders for myself of things I like.

Leave a Reply