Pinterest is evil.
It’s everything wrong with social media, everything wrong with our shallow age of distraction.
I don’t even remember signing up for it. I’m more built for Twitter and, of necessity, that awful beast called Facebook. I took a mandatory course on the supposed journalism applications of Snapchat, but amazingly that just didn’t take.
If I did sign up for Pinterest – I admit nothing – I’m pretty sure I told it my interests are camping, cooking and Canada. That’s it. Wholesome. Simple. Not terribly exotic.
Pinterest knows better. It takes your stated interests and pours other factors – Age and geography? Search history? Astrology? -- into an algorithm that generates alert after alert.
Hey, buddy. Look over here. We’ve got stuff you might like. Canada? Camping? So … sunsets, right?
Well, that looks cool. Click.
And now it’s on. Sunsets, maple trees, moose, cityscapes, sylvan lakes, and chimney smoke rising from a cabin at the end of the long, lonely trail.
The problem is there’s nothing there. It’s just photos, often without so much as a caption. It’s perfect – essentially free of content, one wisp of vapor after another. It’s giant and random scrapbook, posted by We the People, and sliced and diced to appeal to your every whim.
But if you want actually want to learn something beyond someone’s graphic showing “25 camping hacks to save time and money,” you’re out of luck. (By the way, camping is pretty much one hacking solution after another. MacGyverism is half of the appeal.)
So yes, I camp. Which Pinterest interprets as an interest in gear. Fair enough. As it turns out, camping gear is also survival gear. Now Pinterest thinks I’m a prepper, which is a whole ‘nuther world of worry and woe. And on it goes.
Do I stop clicking? No. The sunset and backpacking pictures are appealing, and the internet always seems to hold the promise that three more clicks will take you to the peaceful cabin at trail’s end.
Of course, there is no end of the trail. A more apt metaphor than a trail might be a hamster wheel.
This brings us to the pressing point of the day, a life skill that is taught too little – rabbit hole management.
Let’s admit it. I have mine – Twitter for politics, Pinterest for tents and boots, Ancestry.com for genealogy – and you have yours.
I see two main social dangers. One is the colossal waste of time, diverting our attention from reality. I’m fairly sure this is why the Internet was invented, so when our robot overlords make their move against humanity, we won’t even look up. We’ll mutter “Yeah, sure, whatever” and click, click our way to oblivion.
The other is that the internet easily brings us vast amounts of information – some great, some fiction, some inane, some utterly lacking context, some in excruciating detail. We can find stuff.
We don’t have to share all of it, no matter our keen interest and enthusiasm. You don’t care about my family history, and I don’t care about your fantasy football team. Or who you just defeated in “League of Legends” or, for that matter, why your avatar is a 12th century Tibetan monk. Let’s all share less. Your rabbit hole doesn’t have to be mine, too.
Yes, genealogy is a wondrous rabbit hole and a tremendous user of time. At least it’s productive and real. I’m not so sure about Pinterest.
– Follow Jeff Fox in Twitter: @Jeff_Fox