When Pinterest first gained popularity, it was originally hailed as a wedding planning website. However, what started with newly engaged people planning their dream days was soon infiltrated by users — with no sight of marriage on the horizon — planning extravagant events based on budgets that did not yet exist.
This idea permeates a large chunk of the platform, which was first created in 2009. Everything from dream weddings, to dream homes, to dream wardrobes are curated on user’s “boards,” allowing them to create a dream world of sorts. The problem arises when what exists on the boards becomes far removed from the reality, along with the changing expectations that come with each new trend.
A phenomenon that is not necessarily Pinterest-specific is the idea of expectations varying wildly with the current trends. What may have been someone’s dream house in 2017 becomes unconscionably gauche in 2020. A dream wedding dress can be changed drastically after a royal wedding. Even old saved recipes can make someone wonder who they were when had interest in a certain meal or diet.
The phenomenon becomes even more toxic when life expectations are thrown in, and a person’s idea of what will make them happy can be changed on a whim. Pinterest allows these changes to happen with every refresh of the Home page.
In general, social media has not been spared for its ability to foster unrealistic expectations. Nearly every recent research essay on the rise of depression in youth references the role that social media plays, especially Instagram.
However, people rarely consider Pinterest to be social media, which is a ginormous overstep. Pinterest is Instagram without the imperfections, without the context. When an acquaintance posts their perfect wedding on Instagram, there is the context of how long they have been planning it, and all the little missteps that happened before the big day. When a wedding photo is posted on Pinterest, all there is to see is the perfection.
A Pinterest relationship photo has none of the context of the constant breakups, only the cute smiles. A Pinterest dream home has none of the context of what allows a person to afford that home, just the Upper East Side brownstone with five bedrooms. The lack of context is what makes Pinterest so dangerous.
It can be hard to see the harmful ways that unrealistic expectations manifest themselves because the expectations change so quickly. However, what begins to happen is not that people are settling, but that people are never settling — in pursuit of a perfection that does not exist.
There is a lot of good that can come from a website that helps to plan for the relevant future. However, modeling life after those of nameless personas on Pinterest is very fleeting and may never allow for a place of satisfaction.