Confession: To quote the Avett Brothers, I’ve found myself ill with want lately-full of have-to-haveness of new things, new haircuts, new cities, new jobs, etc. Then I briefly agonize over the justifications of things I “need” vs. what I “want” and the blurry conflation between the two. I observe this blurring of want and need in others quite often too. I’ve been looking at Pinterest a lot lately and thinking about its purpose and usefulness, and, coincidingly, about the language and emotion it evokes from its users. Sure, it’s a virtual pinboard, which I LOVE. I love a physical board displaying things and ideas that inspire, remind, promote, resonate, etc. Maria Bamford agrees. And with a virtual board, hundreds, thousands and maybe bazillions of people can see and perhaps be inspired by your pins. But what of this public sharing or public display of likes? Is there a dark side of Pinterest? What about the feelings of need, want, and consumption that can be generated from using Pinterest? I specifically did some investigating on the categories of fashion, beauty, and interior design and the user comments attached to the images. Let’s begin with what I consider the least frightening of comments: The “I like this” or “I love this.” Perfectly healthy expression unless the object promotes harm. The feeling then might progress to “I want this.” Ok, healthy in moderation. Then there’s the “I need this.” Perhaps sometimes, like how I need some adult-looking shorts from Ann Taylor. Seriously, I’m 27. I’m finally a woman. There’s got to be a Forever 21 cutoff sometime, right? Then there’s the scarier reaction of “I have to have this,” or rather, “I HAVE TO HAVE THIS!” You might be thinking that this is all an exaggeration, that comment means nothing, and that I’m reading too much into it. And it’s not like that person will literally die if they don’t have or obtain the object. Well, I might actually die if I don’t have this picture from the junk / treasure store down the street.
But there are significant public and private confessional performances happening in these exchanges between pinner and viewer. What are we learning about one another through Pinterest? What is the pinner trying to say or promote through the intentional pinning, regardless of her textual description? And how does the viewer translate the image and corresponding text? What does she then do with the new image/new knowledge? The onlooker can’t truly know the deep-seated emotion or intention of the pinner in those moments of expressed like, love, need, want, and have-to-haveness. Does the pinner even realize herself to what extent she feels for the object and the outcome of such feeling? But do either HAVE-TO-HAVE to know? Why does it matter? It’s not like wanting is something new that people are just now starting to exhibit, but Pinterest seems to have opened up a new public way of expressing it.
So I’ve been reminding myself to create, to love, to be nice to Ben, to try to make do with what I have, and to be well-mindedly inspired. It’s also tricky to be both simultaneously present and consciously seeking new places and ways of moving forward. Mary Oliver’s poem “Messenger” has been on my daily mantra list for the past few months…
Are my boots old? / Is my coat torn? / Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? / Let me/ keep my mind on what matters, / which is my work, / which is mostly standing still and learning to be / astonished.