Digital Detox: Quitting Pinterest

I’ve found that anytime I quit one social media platform, another rushes in to fill the vacuum.

As soon as I stepped back from Facebook, Pinterest was ready to lay claim to all my newly-liberated time. I was a late adopter (I even wrote a column in our college newspaper about my failings as a DIYer), but it didn’t take long for me to get swept up in it. Pinterest, however, posed a much different problem for me than other platforms had. If Facebook had been a stand-in for real friendship and connection, then Pinterest was my stand-in for inspiration and creativity. 

On Pinterest, I found process of curating images completely engrossing. I could do it for hours on end, dreaming of the person those boards said I could be: my bright white home, my perfect hand-lettering, my breathtaking vacations and my closet full of outfits that would make me look Parisian. I loved imagining what my life had the potential to look like.

What I realized, though, was that Pinterest was a straw man: what felt like creativity was actually keeping me from actually making something original. What seemed like productivity kept me from using time in a way that refreshed my soul and reconnected me with the things I truly found inspiring. Pinterest gave me the feeling of having accomplished something (“Look how good I am at curating beautiful things!”) without challenging me to switch off the screen and make beautiful things myself. 

A quote from Hamlet’s Blackberry, one of my favorite books on the subject of our digital connectedness, captures my experience well. The author talks about how the internet has turned into an echo chamber of everyone else’s thoughts — often, at the expense of your own:

“A decade ago, the digital space was heralded for the endless opportunities it offered for individual expression. The question now is how truly individual—as in bold, original, unique—you can be if you never step back from the crowd.”

The author’s point, that the internet runs the risk of annihilating rather than encouraging our individuality, stuck out to me. I began to understand that the endless algorithmic flow of images on Pinterest, while beautiful, was limiting my range of thought. I needed space from everyone else’s ideas in order to bring my own to life.

I knew the clandestine feeling of stumbling across something truly inspiring: those moments when you are going about your day-to-day and you happen upon something that strikes a chord deep in your soul in a way that feels transcendent and moves you to create. Having been lucky enough to experience this many times in my life, I know that it rarely happens in front of a screen.

This author call those moments “thin places.” Elizabeth Gilbert, in one of my all-time favorite TED Talks, calls it a visit from your fickle creative genius. Those moments are magical when they happen, but they can’t be manufactured. Their power of truly inspirational things, their ability to grab hold of you in a transformative way, comes from being rare and real, surprising and mundane in their beauty. That was the feeling I wanted to chase — but I couldn’t keep tricking myself into thinking I’d find it on a Pinterest board.

So, a few months ago, I hit the delete button. In an instant all the images I’d worked so hard to curate disappeared.

Since then, I have begun to look for inspiration in my real life. I rediscovered the slow joy of flipping through a coffee table book or the waterlogged pages of my favorite novel. I’m finding beauty in thick conversation with friends, on walks with Thomas through our favorite art museum, and in that song that I can’t stop listening to

When it came down to it, I decided I would rather spend more time living than planning to live. Instead of pausing to carefully curate a selection of other people’s moments; I wanted to be creating my own. 

One thought on “Digital Detox: Quitting Pinterest

  1. Back when I was a newlywed, there was NO internet- stop for a minute, imagine that and let the concept sink in – but there was this new cable channel called HGTV!! And since I worked in a school on a teacher’s schedule at the time, I basically had my summers off. Alone. Every day. All day.So I did EXACTLY what you are describing, Lane, by binge-watching every home-improvement, home decorating, cooking, fashion and lawn & garden maintenance show I could find. At first, I became concerned simply because I realized I was comparing myself to the standards on these shows and defining myself as a failure.Every single thing I saw simply made me feel like a loser because I wasn’t as good at those things as "they" were. I thought, "Wow, I’m not as industrious, creative, resourceful, talented, etc. as they are." Totally psyched myself out with all that negative self-talk. That realization was bad enough, right?But as time went on – and I became more and more invested in watching it ALL THE TIME – I realized something even more alarming. IF I ever truly wanted to start doing some of those things – decorating, organizing, attending to my lawn, cooking (or heck, let’s be real- even the occasional vacuuming and laundry) I needed to QUIT cable TV. Yes, it hit me that I would never have even the TIME to cultivate some of these hobbies and habits if I were to keep spending all my time watching my beloved HGTV.Poor Rick came home from work one day and I blindsided him with my epiphany. I explained how and why those shows weren’t good for us. I declared that, if we wanted to live OUR lives more fully, we needed to stop watching all of THEIR lives non-stop. Although, that "we" was, in truth, just mostly "me," my dear husband listened, agreed and helped me pull the plug. It was one of the best things we ever did.Now, 20 some years later, I am happy and proud to report that we have remained the family that only has that non-advertised super-stripped-down version of cable that nobody knows exists. Yep, we’ve done perfectly fine with just the networks and about 8 other channels.for around $12 a month.Yep, our kids grew up with only public television instead of Nickelodeon or Disney.And they didn’t know the difference. (At the time, at least…) Yep, access to only a handful of channels definitely helped us keep TV consumption under control for a very long time.Until, that is, we discovered Netflix…our new addiction. Sigh… I know it’s just as bad for me…but I haven’t reached a point of willingness to disconnect it yet. Maybe one day…Maybe…Gotta run now, though, because I’m almost finished with the very last three episodes of the final season of Mad Men and I need to see how everything ends. Later!

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