Pinterest, the Site for People who Love Cupcakes and Jake Gyllenhaal

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
Dec. 6 2011 5:52 PM

Cupcakes, Boots, and Shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal

If you like any of those things, you should be on Pinterest.

Pinterest feels like the least cynical place on the Web

At Slate’s annual retreat last summer, Holly Allen, one of the magazine’s Web designers, buttonholed me and exclaimed, “Have you heard of Pinterest? You’ve got to write about it!” I hadn’t heard about it, and rather than explain what it is—because while Pinterest is many things, easy to explain isn’t one of them—she rushed to get her iPad to show me the site.

Since then, I’ve noticed paeans to Pinterest everywhere I go. Several readers have exhorted me to write about it, calling it their favorite new thing on the Web. I’ve spotted Pinterest stickers on laptops at the offices of both Facebook and Google. And every day, my Facebook and Twitter feeds brim with links to Pinterest. This mania got me thinking that I really should write about why Pinterest is so wonderful, and how it’s the hottest new social site since Tumblr. There’s only one problem: I just don’t get it.

OK, I understand the very basics: Pinterest is a graphical social bookmarking site, a way to show off cool images you find online. Its motto should be, “If you see something, Pin something.” When you find a picture on the Web that you like—Diane Von Furstenberg boots, blue velvet cupcakes, Amy Adams—click the Pin It button to send the image to your Pinterest page. People on Pinterest can follow your Pins, and you can follow theirs. This may sound similar to any number of other services online—Pinterest shares some features with Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, StumbleUpon, and Tumblr—but the site’s novel design encourages more ferocious bookmarking and consumption of those bookmarks. Pinterest displays your friends’ pictures in a striking, forever-scrolling table, a virtual pinboard of really pretty pictures. If you’re into pictures—especially of fashion, home décor, food, and animals—you should stop reading and sign up right now.


I suspect that my problem with Pinterest is that I’m just not that into pictures of fashion, home décor, food, and animals. Most of Pinterest’s users are women, and the pictures that greet you when you visit for the first time show off stereotypically feminine pursuits. Indeed, many of the site’s users jokingly refer to Pinterest as an outlet for nonsexual porn for women—food porn, furniture porn, fashion porn. (The site’s terms bar nudity, which is interpreted narrowly enough to permit lots and lots of shirtless photos of Jake Gyllenhaal.)

I’m not the sort of man who shies away from traditionally womanly interests—I’d rather make yogurt than watch sports—so I didn’t turn away from Pinterest immediately. For one thing, I thought it could be a good place to find new recipes. But I couldn’t get into it that way. I linked Pinterest to my Facebook account, which let me browse through my Facebook friends’ Pins. While I found that lots of these people had posted wondrous pictures of food—and there were many more pictures in Pinterest’s Food category, which shows me stuff from everyone, not just my friends—the actual recipes they linked to weren’t that interesting to me. The main problem was that they were all over the place; unlike my favorite food blogs, Pinterest’s food collection felt cluttered and chaotic, a mishmash that wasn’t personalized to my own tastes. Many people will thrive on this diversity, but I found it numbing.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?