In his 1972 book Ways of Seeing, the novelist/art critic John Berger notes that home bulletin boards, or pinboards, on which people pin letters, snapshots, reproductions of paintings, newspaper cuttings, original drawings, and postcards, are like personal museums. Forty years later, Pinterest has become the personal museum of millions around the world.
Launched three years ago, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections of events, interests, hobbies, etc. Users create and categorize “boards” containing images of their interests, browse each other’s boards and “re-pin” their images to their own boards, or simply “like” photos. The boards can be as personal and specific as the individual creating them (“Hobbit Safety Videos,” for example), but the most popular Pinterest categories are Food & Drink, Do-It-Yourself and Crafts, Women's Fashion, Home Decor, and Travel. As of last year, 83% of the users globally were women. The age range, at least in the U.S., was generally 35-44.
Unlike other social media which emphasize social connectedness, Pinterest is, above all, a place for personal inspiration. It is, as Pinterest describes itself simply but brilliantly, “a tool for collecting and organizing things you love.” Nathaniel Perez of Fast Company writes about Pinterest’s vast appeal and how it differs from sites such as Facebook and Twitter:
With Pinterest, it’s the things we like that connect us. It's a natural propensity, one that mimics the way we behave with our connections in real life...
[W]hile other social networks have largely focused on static sharing behaviors (think “liked,” “stumbled,” “digged,” “read,” “watched” and “checked in,” all [in] a “timeline”), Pinterest is focused on fluidly bringing users together through visual discovery, while connecting them to the stories and authors behind “pins,” whether they be trusted friends, interesting strangers, or brands thinking creatively.