The Surprising Reason Pinterest Makes Some Women Feel Like Crap But Doesn’t Faze Others

Trending now: women saying Pinterest makes them feel inadequate.

Surely you’ve heard women complain about how Pinterest makes them feel lacking because they can never live up to the standards set by those perfect pinboards.

To which I said: What?

I don’t have this problem. I use Pinterest to track of ideas and images I used to throw into two dozen poorly organized bookmarks folders. I use it to track my books and show Stitch Fix what I’m into. I don’t spend a ton of time browsing, and I can’t recall a time I’ve been struck green with envy whilst in front of my computer.

I believe this problem is real: too many women experience Pinterest-driven discontent to just dismiss it. But I struggled to understand why Pinterest was such a big deal for them, when it wasn’t for me.

I thought maybe Pinterest didn’t get to me because I was content with my life. Or that as someone who creates web content, I have a better idea of what’s just outside the frame of all those beautiful pinned photos. Or that something in me recognized the futility of comparing my life to what is essentially a neverending magazine.

But I wonder if the explanation is more simple than that.

Last week, I was listening to my daughter complain that her dress wasn’t as pretty as her sister’s–a common occurrence in my house. This child is quick to compare herself with others, and often finds herself lacking. I have no idea why she does it; this tendency seems to be innate.

And that’s when I remembered something Gretchen Rubin said about technology and self-image: When it comes to social comparison, “Some people are just much more inclined this way than others…and some people aren’t so much that way.”

Gretchen wasn’t discussing Pinterest (though she did mention Facebook, which has been the subject of numerous social comparison studies). But her explanation illumines not only my daughter’s frequent complaints, but Pinterest-driven inferiority complex syndrome as well.

Some of us are much more likely than others to feel badly about ourselves after browsing Pinterest.

Just knowing that social comparison is real, and that some people experience it more than others, can help you shake free of it. Diagnose yourself: does Pinterest make you feel bad? To paraphrase Gretchen, is this tool serving you or oppressing you?

If you find Pinterest helpful and fun, then have at it.

But if Pinterest messes with your head, don’t let comparison steal your joy. Remind yourself that this is hard for you, and you’re going to struggle with it a bit.

And maybe, just stay off Pinterest.

Recommended reading: 16 Ways to Become More Content over at Money Saving Mom.

Are you on Pinterest? How does it make you feel?

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Comments

  1. says

    I hadn’t heard of this issue (maybe I don’t spend enough time on Pinterest?), but I think you are onto something. Perhaps this is stating it too baldly, but comparison discontent often seems to boil down to plain old envy/jealousy.

    For the most part, these have not been issues in my life, so maybe that gives me some perspective for others who struggle with it. (Don’t worry — I have plenty of my own weaknesses — pride, much?) Anyway, I am often jolted by comments, particularly on sites like Houzz, where people come right out and say, “Jealous!!!” And you can tell they are!

    Looking at Pinterest or sites with home architecture and decoration makes all of us think, “Oh, that’s neat/lovely/clever/smart.”
    But it’s the next thought that divides us into two camps, right?
    Content-competent folks: “That’s an idea I might be able to use/adapt/incorporate. Think I’ll pin/save/keep it in mind…” Or, if it is clearly out of reach, there is an acceptance that does not wreck the day or cause the person to seethe.

    Envious-inadequate folks: “Why can’t I have that?/I could never do that/I could never afford that,” and then the person is discontented.

    And it does seem to be a knee-jerk, ingrained response. Can it be changed? As a believer in God, I am confident that it can, but I think it often takes a lifetime to do it.

    Hope this doesn’t sound too harsh, and I know I’ve practically written an essay here (sorry!), but I guess you struck a chord with me.

  2. says

    I’m definitely more with you. I use it just to track my own ideas. And I’m sort of a free-spirit, so I don’t feel like I have to be doing what everyone else is doing all the time, which probably helps keep the comparison down. Great point to bring up, though, because I know it is obviously a real thing.

  3. says

    I’m honestly not on Pinterest–I have an account, but I spend enough time Facebooking and blogging as it is. But I’ve never struggled with comparing myself to others on facebook. (Well, I rarely do.) What I do sometimes is compare my house with that of other people’s, but usually those people are considerably older than I am, have a bigger and more steady income, and have been homemakers for years–even decades. So I remind myself that I’ll get there. :)

  4. says

    I’ve had friends mention feeling this way to me to be about Facebook & Pinterest, but I don’t think I have that natural inclination. I would have to say that I don’t think it’s anything I can take credit for, it just doesn’t really occur to me. Besides, I’m a bit skeptical overall and know what is probably behind a lot of Pinterest pics. Haha. I think it’s a fun tool, but I have to say that the social aspect is not my favorite. I was so happy when they introduced private boards. I find it a really good tool for organizing ideas for my business, healthy recipes, and decorating my house.

  5. says

    Maybe it boils down to the *WHY* we are using pinterest. Is it for research? To catalog information? Or is it for writing down a list of “wants”?

    The more time I spend on pinterest staring at things solely for the purpose of “if I had/did/looked like this my life would be better”, I hate it and myself.

    When I use it for brainstorming ideas, or saving pertinent links, I am happy about it.

    I keep a pretty tight fix on who and what boards I follow. Pretty much just sewing. :) I don’t food things or too many fashion things or tightly toned and tanned bodies. Like the blogs I read, if it makes me feel like crap, cut it out. :)

    • Anne says

      Jodi, I think the “why” can be a big part of it.

      “If it makes me feel like crap, cut it out.” That’s a great philosophy, and not just for Pinterest!

  6. Karlyne says

    Hmmm. When does appreciation become jealousy? I love pinning beautiful rooms full of light blue gorgeousness, but if I let them get me down because my dining room is beige and I just sit around and stew about how “They have light” and “I have beige”, I’ve crossed a big line.

    I’ve gone from appreciation to mean-spirited envy. I’m not doing anything about my own life; all I’ve done is injected some potent whining into it.

    “Why we do what we do…” really is the most important thing for us to look at in our lives!

  7. Emily says

    Pinterest doesn’t bother me at all, but I also generally don’t worry about other people think of me (I have OTHER besetting sins). In fact, when I’m on Pinterest, sometimes I roll my eyes at the extremely time consuming and labor intensive beautiful things people make….I wouldn’t want to “waste” my daily allotted hours on that….I have way to much regular “mom” work to do! :)

  8. says

    Pinterest has actually made me feel better about myself. I had put away my scrapbooking and crafting because I was just “too busy.” Pinterest made me realize that there are thousands of other women out there who say “I’m worth it!” and put themselves first. I’m now making cute craft projects weekly, and I feel great by indulging in something just for me.

  9. says

    I absolutely agree! I have loved pinterest from the start for the same reasons – having images attached to my bookmarks, neatly organized is wonderful! But I think envy and self depreciation are available via any media outlet or life circumstance. I don’t think that any woman is immune, just that as individuals different things affect us. The person who feels like she is not valued professionally may be discouraged hearing about her friend’s promotion. Someone who is trying to get pregnant unsuccessfully may feel horrible seeing all the cute babies popping up on facebook. Surely some people may tend more toward jealousy, but really it seems like its whatever pushes your particular sore spot. To women who believe that they just much DO IT ALL, RIGHT NOW I can see that pinterest would be horribly discouraging. I had to stop reading fashion magazines as a college student because realized the images of thin perfect women were depressing me (which later I read is a feeling many women experience) and I was already teetering on the edge of an eating disorder. A few years ago – before pinterest – I managed to get quite discouraged while trying to gather advice for decorating my first house online – because I already felt overwhelmed and inadequate for the task. Its important to be self aware and willing to step away from an activity that is not encouraging to yourself, but also important to be gracious enough to remember that just because the activity bothers you, it is not necessarily bad for everyone.

    • Anne says

      Yes, yes, yes.

      “It’s important to be self aware and willing to step away from an activity that is not encouraging to yourself, but also important to be gracious enough to remember that just because the activity bothers you, it is not necessarily bad for everyone.”

      Exactly.

  10. says

    I am a very visual person and have loved Pinterest for giving that learning style the chance to help me. Recipes have pictures, cleaning tricks are not just text based, and crafts have a desired end goal. It has been less about the comparison and more about the visual research for myself and most of the people I know who use it. Sometimes a picture is really worth a thousand words.

  11. says

    This is interesting. I have quite a few friends who struggle with Pinterest but it hasn’t bothered me in the least. On the other hand, I do tend to compare myself to others…but generally when they receive or already have something I want, i.e. certain dreams. I have to remind myself that someone’s Have is not my Have Not. Sometimes it requires a break from the humble brags piling up on Facebook or Twitter. But never Pinterest. I don’t spend much time browsing Pinterest- it’s just a nice filing system for me.

    • Anne says

      I agree with the “it’s a nice filing system” approach to Pinterest usage.

      I’m laughing about the “humble brags” on Facebook and Twitter. So true!

  12. Meg says

    I don’t get this either! I looooove getting new ideas from other people on Pinterest and I loooove seeing how others live! Maybe that’s why I like reality TV so much! Although I am not content with my life right now, I get motivation from Pinterest, not feelings of inadequacy! In fact, I use Pinterest to cheer myself up!

  13. says

    You know, I always think this.

    Different people have different weaknesses. It’s like an addiction. If you’re addicted to feeling inadequate, you need to stay clear from these types of things. If you’re addicted to alcohol, you can’t drink it.

    Well said.

  14. Elizabeth Kane says

    I could see that. Pinterest is a great tool when you’re using it as that: a tool. And actually, I’ve noticed that when I’m not googling over the desserts I will *probably* never make, I’m going through everyone’s quotes and blog posts. So I guess, instead of getting overwhelmed with projects, I open too many tabs and end up lost in a sea of blogs and big ideas. That’s more fun for me!

  15. Holly says

    Thanks for this …. I too am baffled by the phenomenon as I love Pinterest and use it for organizing and finding cool stuff … even though I do tend to compare in real life, Pinterest isn’t “real” to me it’s just a design board :)

  16. Jessica @ Acting Adult says

    I had no idea that Pinterest would make women feel inadequate! Like you, I use it as a visual pinboard of beautiful things that I hope to inspire me one day to make my life more beautiful. But just because I don’t have that house/that outfit/that dish yet, I don’t feel any worse because of it!

  17. says

    Yes! For someone like me that usually DOES feel inadequate around almost everyone, I have not understood when others felt this way about Pinterest. I love using it simply as a bookmark for things I’d like to try. And you know what? I’ve been actually trying many of those things. I guess all I needed was a visual reminder. it’s helped me greatly as I honestly have ADD & cannot move past simple steps, reminders, etc., and I’ve cooked so many new recipes this month alone thanks to having them all organized in a place I can access from my phone, computer, or ipad. Not only have I tried recipes, but I’ve used a few natural cleansing techniques that I ordinarily wouldn’t have because I usually lose or forget where I write things down. Or I ignore the email I sent with a link in it to remind me. I’ve used tutorials in sewing that I wouldn’t typically remember. It’s crazy how well it works for this girl that is usually intimidated by all. :)

    • Anne says

      This sounds familiar: “I ignore the email I sent with a link in it to remind me.” Yep, I’ve done that–and that’s why I like Pinterest!

      And yay for small successes–I’m so glad you can use it AND feel good about yourself at the same time!

  18. says

    I have almost no interest in Pinterest, aside from occasionally using it to find something for a blog post (and considering my frequent blogging breaks, it’s not that often). I’m always encouraged to use it for work, which I know makes some people totally envious ha! It doesn’t really surprise me at all that “social comparison” is a “thing.” Haven’t we compared ourselves to others with varying degrees of satisfaction or inadequacy forever? I do think, though, that social media has drastically broadened that sphere. When my grandmother was my age, she only had the women around her and those she *may* have seen in very early movies to compare herself to, not every single girl with a blog all around the world.

    • Anne says

      Amanda, I think you’re so right–social media has made social comparison much easier. (What would our grandmothers think??) Hopefully more women can realize that, and back away from facebook/pinterest/etc for their own good!

  19. says

    I’ve also heard lots of women lately talking about how Pinterest makes them feel bad and overwhelmed. I’m glad I’m not the only one it doesn’t affect that way! Pinterest inspires me to try new things, and all the pretty pictures make me feel happy, not depressed!

  20. says

    Yeah, I definitely don’t have a Pinterest problem. I know that a picture or blog post doesn’t tell the whole story, so it doesn’t bother me too much. I’ve heard people say that they’ve had to deactivate their accounts because Pinterest is so unhealthy, and that bugs me because Pinterest (no technology) is the problem. The problem is our sinful natures. I want to tell them, “Deactivate your account if you must, but then pray about your issue because it’s there whether you’re on Pinterest or not.” I know from experience that blaming something or someone else for my negative tendencies doesn’t help me in the long run.

  21. Ellen says

    This is a wise observation. There are some things that are just right or wrong, for everyone. And then there are a lot of things that work for me but not for you and vice versa. I know I would live more contentedly if I would more generally accept that.

    I don’t actually have a problem with Pinterest making me feel bad. I like the ideas and the organization. But other things make my head spin and I would really do better to avoid them. So… there is wisdom in knowing the way YOU are made and living in rhythm with it!

  22. says

    I find that I can go either way! I mostly just love looking at the pretty, but on certain days where I’m feeling more self-conscious and secure, I get depressed seeing all the pretty and then the crazy mess of my house. I agree–people should take or leave it as it helps or hurts them! Very practical.

  23. Jasi says

    Pinterest inspires and entertains me when I’m bored and at it has replaced almost entirely for me google image search because the links/pics are more reliable. I use Pinterest as a quick reference for ideas, recipes, fixes and hacks. I’m a problem solver to the core and I find it a great tool if you focus your search. But purely for entertainment, some of the pictures are beautiful and unlike search engines it’s a lot less ad-driven. Absolute win for me.

  24. Ann says

    I enjoy Pinterest for inspiration and really have to watch the amount of time spent on there though-that’s when I’m tuff on myself. If I spend waaaaayyyy too much time on a Pinterest subject of mine, then not even use any ideas-I tend to feel bad with that time wasted!

    I was hesitant when I linked my Facebook with Pinterest but after turning off my Pinterest notifications on fb-I like it better.

    I guess I basically see it as a great visual tool for ideas. I do however limit my fb time because I can get annoyed rather easy there…and being annoyed is truly a waste of my time :D

    • says

      Interesting. Now that you mention it, I feel pretty much the same way about Facebook vs. Pinterest. Pinterest = inspiration. Facebook = annoyed.

  25. says

    Pinterest TOTALLY made me feel like a bad wife. I thankfully didn’t join the site until after our wedding, but as a newlywed, it felt SO evident that my meals, home, body, clothes, LIFE didn’t reflect what I was pinning. And I’m in marketing. I know all the tricks. But it still got to me. I’m an Enneagram 4, which is part of the issue – core sin/temptation is envy, and wow, it can get bad sometimes. A 9-month hiatus was a good break for me, and now I use Pinterest primarily for tracking recipes. I shared more thoughts on quitting Pinterest when I went back to it: http://teamwastell.com/2012/12/28/why-i-quit-pinterest/

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  1. [...] way about it. I find it extremely useful and inspiring rather than overwhelming. Anne explains this dichotomy of feelings about Pinterest quite well over at Modern Mrs. [...]

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