I also shared that when I first started using the Pomodoro technique for work, I didn’t know what to do during my breaks, short of browsing Instagram. Thank heavens I had already quit Pinterest or I may never have put my phone down long enough to develop my new cleaning habit. Ok I’m exaggerating (a little), but Pinterest was a big productivity killer for me, and not only that but a creativity killer too.
I loved the initial premise of Pinterest: pin all the awesome things you find on the internet with a picture, so you can easily find them again. Brilliant.
But there’s another side to Pinterest. The dark side. Pinterest probably doesn’t see it that way, because what I call the dark side led to their incredible viral growth. But it didn’t lead to my growth, for a while it led to my decay. Other moms struggle with it too.
Pinterest is just a tool, yes, but it has two distinct uses. First, it’s a way to visually bookmark things on the internet you want to find again. Second, it “recommends” things. The never-ending visual feed is supposed to expose you to more things that you may want to re-pin to your own board so you can find them again later. It’s a visually-stimulating time-waster.
As both a business and personal user, it gets even more complicated. Pinterest is the number one website traffic referrer to blogs, mine included. Traffic is critical for ad revenue. Growing a Pinterest following is touted as one of the “must-dos” for successful bloggers. To build a Pinterest following, you need to pin more. To pin more you need to browse more.
With any tool it’s important to know if it’s helping you or not. From a business standpoint, Pinterest was serving me traffic. I’ve not been able to equate that to my bottomline though since I don’t display ads. But from a personal standpoint, the Pinterest stream was making me feel “pin-adequate”. It affects some people more than others. (The comments on that article are a great read.)
I think it’s important to constantly evaluate what’s working and what’s not working in your life. Then, try to stop doing the things that aren’t working. Pinterest was something I needed to stop doing.
[Tweet “Evaluate what’s working and what’s not working in your life and stop doing the things that aren’t working.”]
I quit the feed. I stopped wasting my time browsing Pinterest, for business and pleasure.
Because a reading addiction (not a bad thing to have) has replaced my Pinterest addiction, I quote from a couple of books I’ve read recently in this article. The links to the books are my Amazon affiliate links. If you follow one and make a purchase, Amazon pays me a tiny commission. (Which I promptly use to buy more books.)
Why Pinterest Wasn’t Good for Me
My Pinterest addiction led to three afflictions; procrastination, severe idea muscle atrophy, and the dreaded comparison-itis. It took me too long to see what was happening, but thankfully there was a quick cure.
This is an advanced form of procrastination. Instead of simply putting off the work I should have been doing, I filled my time with something I pretended was part of the work. Instead of starting on a project, I needed to “research”, see more examples, or see how someone else had done it.
When I couldn’t work on projects when my boys were young, because I was breast-feeding or putting them to bed or just plain exhausted, I fell into a habit of browsing Pinterest. At least if I couldn’t work on the project, I could browse other people’s similar projects. I became a Pinterest feed and search junky.
This procrastination parading as pre-work and planning eroded my confidence to start a project without checking Pinterest first. Occasionally, I’d find a new way I hadn’t thought of to tackle a project or a common mistake to watch out for, but mostly I was just wasting time. My thumb was getting more of a work out than my creativity.
Idea Muscle Atrophy
When I browsed Pinterest regularly, I stopped having my own ideas. It was as if that part of my brain shriveled up and died. If I did have an idea of my own, I checked Pinterest to see if it had already been done…it always had and better than I could do it. Defeat, before I even tried it myself. So many times when I tried to have an idea, I just gave up and turned to Pinterest to give me answers.
In Choose Yourself!, James Altucher explains, “The idea muscle is no different than the writing muscle. It’s no different than your leg muscles, for that matter. If you don’t walk for two weeks, the muscles will atrophy. The idea muscle must be exercised everyday.” I let my idea muscle atrophy because I stopped trying to come up with ideas on my own, I validated every idea I did have against Pinterest, and eventually I started to let Pinterest be my idea machine.
Validating my ideas on Pinterest started originally as a professional courtesy as a blogger to make sure I wasn’t unknowingly duplicating someone else’s project. But it quickly morphed into checking every idea against Pinterest. I discovered there was nothing I could do that hadn’t been done before. Nothing I could do that someone else hadn’t already done better.
But I only felt that way because I knew what else was out there. Sometimes it’s better not to know. Sometimes it’s better to believe you are the first one to ever think of an idea and the only one that can bring it to life.
Besides validating my ideas on Pinterest, another startling affliction took over my waking hours–the green-eyed monster, envy. Or as I like to call it “comparison-itis”. Not only was I checking my idea’s merit on Pinterest, I was comparing my home to all the beautiful pictures filling the feed.
I’ve never been the jealous type. I always found it easy to dismiss magazine pictures and luxury home pictures without a second thought. It was easy for me to see those were not real life, or at least not what I wanted in my life. But Pinterest opened the doors for everyone to share beautiful pictures in one place, from real homes.
Suddenly all the amazing bloggers the world over were having their home pictures pinned and re-pinned. No longer were the “designer” images obviously out-of-reach aspirations. Now there was a flood of real homes that were inspiring and beautiful. And I found myself asking too often, why can’t I have that? I started comparing my home and myself to these much more attainable, but still seemingly “better” than what I had, standards.
Melissa Michaels, author of Love the Home You Have and self-described DIY-challenged creator, says, “We can be hard on ourselves for expecting our homes to be closer to perfect and then hard on ourselves again for not being content when they aren’t. When we try to find peace in unrealistic expectations of what our homes should be like, we perpetuate an endless cycle of guilt and shame.”
Turns out, I’m not the only one with “Pinterest stress”. In a survey of 7,000 U.S. mothers, “42 percent said that they sometimes suffer from Pinterest stress – the worry that they’re not crafty or creative enough.”
It’s not lost on me that as a blogger who posts pictures of my home, I contribute to this phenomenon. I try to be very transparent about the time I spend on the projects I do and what it really takes to get a great photo. This is what it looks like just out of frame.
Even though I know the reality that just outside camera shot everything might be in disarray, I still fall victim to comparison-itis. Even the most beautiful pictures of my home get trumped by some of the pictures I see on Pinterest.
But the truth is: No one person has all the amazing ideas on Pinterest in their home. We are seeing perfect slices of thousands of homes at once. Mash them all together and who wouldn’t want to live there? But nobody does. Everyone has dirty dishes, toilets to scrub, and legos to trip over.
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I know admitting how I feel about Pinterest makes me appear weak and discontent. Maybe I was. I don’t want to feel this way about Pinterest. We can’t always choose how something makes us feel, but we can choose how to deal with the feelings we have.
Nearly a year after quitting Pinterest and finding relief from comparison-itis, I read Living Well Spending Less. It was as if Ruth was speaking directly to me when she wrote, “If we struggle with wanting the things we see around us, we need to stop looking. We should stop reading blogs and magazines or watching television shows that make us feel inadequate.” She recommends taking a break from these sources until we can quiet the discontent in our heart. A break from Pinterest was what I needed.
What I Found When I Gave Up Pinterest
So I stopped looking, comparing, caring. I quit Pinterest. I uninstalled the app from my phone (a critical step in recovery). I stopped checking my ideas and my home against the visual stream of the rest of the world.
I slowed down in my home. It’s not a race. I didn’t have anyone to catch up to. I started taking projects at a pace that was right for our family. I stopped looking for new projects to do and turned my attention to improving the things we already had. I stopped feeling like there was no time and too many things to do. My pinterest boards are not my to-do list. I didn’t want to turn into this:
Shortly after I gave up Pinterest, I quit DIY. Turns out I liked the idea of building things with my own two hands better than I liked doing it. The pins made it look so easy and I even considered myself a DIY blogger, but it was a false identity. When I stopped seeing the feed of everyone else building their own furniture, barn doors, and pallet art, I stopped wanting to prove I could do that too.
Browsing Pinterest was my greatest time-suck and mental energy waster, more so than any other type of social media. When I shop a thrift store, there’s a thrill of the hunt and I cannot stop making laps up and down the aisles until I find the diamond in the rough. Browsing the Pinterest feed made me feel the same way. I couldn’t stop until there was just one more thing worthy of pinning. It takes a lot of time to scroll through the stuff not worthy of a repin. But there’s this little surge of oxytocin in the brain when you find something good to pin. It’s addictive. (Note: I’m not a doctor, but browsing Pinterest certainly felt like an addiction to me.)
When I quit, for a while I didn’t know what to do with myself or my scrolling thumb. I started losing my phone all the time, because it wasn’t permanently attached to my hand. Then, I started to find other feel-good activities to spend my time on.
I started reading. The Kindle app became the new go-to on my phone. I started having ideas again, that I chose not to validate on Pinterest. I stopped robbing myself of implementing a great idea in my life, because someone else did it better in their life.
[Tweet “Don’t rob yourself of implementing a great idea in your life, because someone else did it better in their life.”]
I’m just not a Pinterest person. It’s okay to not be, especially if your self-esteem is higher without it.
How I Use Pinterest Now
It’s been over a year since I deleted Pinterest from my phone.
It’s still a worthwhile tool. Now I use Pinterest very strategically. Here’s the only ways I’ve used Pinterest in the last year:
- As a search engine to look for something specific, not to look for inspiration. I do love visual search results.
- To bookmark articles I want to read or save for later.
- To collaborate with my book cover designer. I searched for inspiring cover images and shared them with my designer on a secret board.
- To organize plans for a room, party, or project. I don’t browse Pinterest for ideas, but I do pin ideas I find elsewhere to Pinterest, so they are neatly organized and easily accessible.
So, I still use Pinterest as a bookmarking tool and occasionally as a collaboration tool, because it is a simple way to share a variety of links with another person. I don’t use it for browsing or to look for inspiration.
I now have the Pinterest app reinstalled on my phone, but I think not having it for a year was key to changing my habit. When I put it back on my phone I made a new, personal Pinterest account to do just the activities I listed above. I’m not following other pinners and no one is following me. It’s just a bookmaking and collaboration tool. I like it for that.
On my personal account my boards look awful. They aren’t organized or named something cute. I don’t even waste the time to pick a cover photo. I like that, too. No pressure.
There is still a Teal & Lime Pinterest board. It has over 3,900 pins on it. I am not proud of that. I pinned many wonderful ideas and things, but I can’t help but think of what else I could have done with those hours of my life. I don’t pin there regularly anymore. I’m just not a Pinterest person. I realized all the time spent on Pinterest wasn’t helping me create a better home, it was distracting me from it.
[Tweet “I realized Pinterest wasn’t helping me create a better home, it was distracting me from it.”]
I know as you read this you will fall into one of two camps; “OMG, I Feel Exactly the Same Way” or “What? I Love Pinterest”. If Pinterest doesn’t cause the same afflictions in you, then by all means keep browsing and using it as a tool. I truly am pro-Pinterest. Parts of the tool just didn’t bring out the best in me. If you, like me, struggle with aspects of Pinterest, I hope sharing my story will help you find a healthy and balanced way to use the tool in the best way for you.