Pinterest: Unrealistic Wish Lists or Organization Tool?

With about 29 million active users in the United States (Global Web Index), Pinterest has grown significantly since its humble beginnings in 2012. This social medium gives users the ability to pull links and photos from all over the Internet and into one organized “pin board.” The question at hand is whether this ability creates unrealistic expectations for the real word, or if it serves the purpose of an online organization tool. Our answer may lie in who exactly uses Pinterest the most; income levels and demographics certainly effect the way Pinterest is utilized.

Christina Valhouli of the New York Times wrote an opinion piece in 2013 titled, “Why I Hate Pinterest.” Her article focused on the planning of her son’s birthday party; she had mentioned to a friend that it would be pirate themed, and that’s when Pinterest broke her spirit. Valhouli began receiving emails of crazy pirate themed do-it-yourself projects and unattainable professionally done cakes with ships and all. “I started to feel inadequate as a mom,” Valhouli wrote. Suddenly, a mother who wanted to make her son happy with a homemade cake and pirate decorations could not live up to Pinterest’s expectations.

Valhouli’s situation can be applied to multiple Pinterest categories, making one feel insufficient in their cooking skills, crafting abilities, home décor and even life expectations. People have boards of life quotes and wanderlust locations, feeding the idea of a perfect life and distracting individuals from their own life and all the beauties the real world has to offer. Pinners fill their boards with desires, as Cision PR Blog pointed out, “Pinning is aspirational.” But is that a good thing — making real life seem unsatisfactory in relation to our unrealistic Internet wish lists.

On the other side of the question, we find purposeful pinners who have the ability to make their pins a reality and use boards as an organizational tool. This pinner creates boards as she prepares for the re-decorating of her office or home or even as she prepares to buy a wedding dress. Alexandra Chang explained her opinion of Pinterest on Macworld, speaking of her ability to, “hunt the Internet for stuff and collect all of my finds visually.” Chang also mentioned that Pinterest is aspirational in her article, reinforcing that an aspirational medium can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

If we think about Pinterest demographically, we begin to gain an idea of why it may be used more often as a shopping list tool, rather than an unrealistic board of what-ifs. According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), mostly women, ranging from young adult to mid-40s use Pinterest regularly. About a quarter of users have a college education and are making well above the average American income. In 2013, the United States’ income per capita was $28,184 (Department of Numbers) while, that same year, 27 percent of Pinterest users made $75,000+ per year (PRC).

So maybe, because of who the average pinner tends to be, Pinterest is used more often as an organizational tool for life stages. But, advertisers and public relations specialists need to be aware of who their true target audiences are because you don’t know whose confidence you could be destroying by showing them what they “can’t live without.” There’s a reason low budget and do-it-yourself items are popular on Pinterest, the average pinner could be morphing into a lower-income, young-adult, possibly college aged, as Millennials begin to take the reins on Pinterest engagement.

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