Yes, I am a female college student, and, yes, I love Pinterest. In fact, I have an entire board dedicated to fabulous shoes and another for adorable puppies; however, is that all Pinterest can be used for? If I should—and do—utilize my other social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, for more practical functionalities, why shouldn’t I do the same with Pinterest, too?
Obviously, Pinterest has a certain shallow stigma associated with it. Then again, so do Facebook and Twitter. People often complain about all of the “selfies” and passive-aggressive status updates that their friends post on Facebook as well as the sub-tweeting and excessive activity on Twitter. I’ll admit that I’ve had to unfollow numerous people—admittedly, they were girls—on Pinterest because of their obsessive-compulsive pinning disorders—or OCPD.
In fact, sometimes a singular girl can fill up my entire screen in a matter of minutes. “I swear, if I have to look at one more pseudo-inspirational quote or over-saturated, sepia-toned photograph, I am going to puke,” I often mutter before tapping the “Unfollow All” button. Pins such as these:
Augh. These pins get so annoying. For that reason, moderation is key when it comes to Pinterest. The same can be said about other social media sites, too. Just because some people tweet every 10 minutes about their every thought doesn’t mean you have to do the same; neither do you have to follow everyone you know from school. As a journalism student, I try not to use Twitter for social reasons; rather, I follow key accounts like BBC World, The Atlantic, The New York Times and The Associated Press. So, how can we use Pinterest responsibly?
First, think about what causes you care about. Does human trafficking make you furious? Well, guess what? There’s a pin for that. I have several friends from high school who have since participated in volunteer work overseas, and I often see incredibly practical pins pop up on my home page from them. For instance, by clicking on a pin from one of my friends, I discovered Slavery Footprint, which told me that, based on the products I consume, I have 46 slaves working for me. What a sobering thought.
One of my good friends is going to Zambia this summer to help educate locals about HIV. Guess what? She has an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to HIV education to help her gather information for her trip later this summer. If that's not practically using Pinterest, I don't know what is!
I, personally, have a soft spot for orphans, as I lived as an expatriate in Papua New Guinea for 15 years where many children are rendered AIDS orphans. For that reason, my family has always sponsored children through Compassion International.
But did you know that Compassion has its own Pinterest account? The non-profit has over 35 boards dedicated solely to helping children who are less fortunate than us. Their account is especially helpful because it raises awareness of many of the reasons that children are left orphaned: malaria, AIDS, lack of water, poverty and human trafficking.
On the other hand, you are obviously not obligated to use Pinterest just for heavy topics. You can use it for educational purposes, for example. There are entire categories on Pinterest dedicated to education, history, travel, technology, products and science. In fact, people have started their own businesses with Pinterest's help, linking pins to products on an external site. And teachers can pin creative crafts and lesson ideas, too:
There is so much more on this female-dominated site than creating hypothetical wardrobes that you will never have the money to buy or planning an ideal wedding with your imaginary fiance. After all, the real world isn’t all perfect souffles and weddings, so why should Pinterest be, either?
So if you’ve noticed a lack of practicality in your news feed, perhaps you need to step up to the plate. By downloading the “Pin It” button, you can create your own pins from links external to Pinterest. If you're passionate about ending world hunger, start doing research, and pin your findings onto your very own World Hunger Awareness (title pending) board.
And if all else fails, remember the words of the glorious, the incomparable Audrey Hepburn, who once said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”