A Relationship On the Edge

I may have to break up with Pinterest. Which is sad because I still kind of love Pinterest. It’s just that Pinterest has gotten selfish and no longer takes my needs into account.

When we first met Pinterest and I, it was love at first site. This was what I’d been searching for my whole internet life. Keeping all my interests bookmarked on my browser and Delicious was cumbersome and there was no photo reminder telling me what intrigued me about each site. And there, finally, after I’d stopped looking, was Pinterest. All bright and shiny and colorful – full of visual inspiration. Eager to court me and whisk me off my feet into new worlds of wood turning, shoelace tying, paleo cookies and decorating with palettes and burlap. Exactly what I’d wanted all those years before.

We had a good couple of years. I’d sign on and there would be scads of photos from friends, real and faux, who shared my same interests. I was specific in my expectations. I rarely followed anyone 100%. I’d look at their boards and only follow what I was genuinely interested in. Not being into sports or weddings or children, those were specific boards I avoided. This ensured my feed was always filled with things I was excited about and I did not have to weed out the bleh stuff. Until I did.

The first infraction was an unending stream of wedding goo. Was Pinterest trying to tell me something? Initially I thought I was following a board in error and clicked to rectify that immediately. But I wasn’t following the board at all! It was a community board with over 50K pins! (I also don’t follow boards with more than 3K or so pins – they take over and most pins are things I’ve already seen.) I had to write the company and ask why I was seeing pins I didn’t want over pins I did want. After a few days the wedding stuff disappeared.

Pinterest and I were back on track. I started a board with my friends for printables. I joined another community board. I learned how to line my eyes, trim a quilt, make a unicorn horn and cook a ham. I used the secret boards to plan a party. I even went to a work event to learn how to use Pinterest for event planning. My boss and I would have Pin Breaks on rough days where we’d just scroll through Pinterest looking to see what caught our eyes. For my part, I actively weeded my own boards – searching out dead links, duplicates and misfiled items. I increased from 15 boards to 41. We were golden. Until we weren’t.

Pins of things that I’d already seen a million times over started showing up in my feed. Kid stuff popped up with a vengeance based on my following a couple of people who had boards for kids with specific learning disabilities which I used as research for a friend. Now I was getting “Here’s where to hide the Elf on the Shelf!” “10 helpful ways to teach your children manners!” “summer activities for families that cost next to nothing!” Ugh. This was the initial roll-out of the “Picked for you” category. Pinterest lead me to believe that once I chose to hide these pins they would eventually disappear. I spent some time and hid everything, regardless of my interest. And disappear they did! Until they didn’t.

When the “Picked for You” pins returned they came back with a vengeance. I sought help from the internets and found this little bookmarklet that works well enough on my desktop, but not at all on my iPhone. The smaller phone screen requires more scrolling past unwanted ads to get to the content I want. I’ve been bombarded with lingerie ads (for lingerie that does not come in my size), sketchy “health” advice, wedding dresses, how to style white-girl hair and gluten free recipes (I always ask for extra gluten). It’s like going to Nordstrom to buy shoes and the salesperson keeps showing you vacuum cleaners.

unwanted removed

How my feed looked after the bookmarklet “removed picked for you” pins.

There’s been some criticism about the Picked for You pins, but it doesn’t seem to phase the Pinterest Powers That Be at all. I get that they want to make money and all, but at what cost? Already I’ve curtailed my activity. Mostly I stick to my own pins or maybe I will choose someone I’m following and take a look at their latest pins specifically. You also have to be careful that Pinterest isn’t following random boards for you. I just checked my feed a couple of minutes ago and found that I am now following several homeschooling boards. I never followed any homeschool anything! As I stated above, when I follow someone I look at all their boards individually and choose only the me-specific ones. The people whose boards I follow blindly are the people I actually know IRL.

When I first joined Pinterest it was before they were trying to earn a profit. Now it seems that is all they are trying to do. They clearly used an algorithm to discover that I recently pinned several items about making your own lingerie and then used that information for a sponsored pin fest for vendors who are trying to use the site to promote and sell their items. However, the algorithm does not take into account the fact that I am looking into making my own lingerie because the color, sizing and cost of items available to purchase are limiting to me. I also got sponsored pins from Kraft after I pinned a few mac and cheese recipes. Like I’m supposed to go, “What? There’s mac and cheese in a BOX that I can make with water?!” and “I can add ham and tomatoes to it?” followed by “Oh, this wonderful modern world we live in!”

Stop Promoted Pins is an app for your computer and your cell phone that supposedly removes all the unwanted pins from your feed. I will definitely be trying it, but will it just be a matter of time before Pinterest counters that move and Sunkist Tuna dessert recipes start popping up?