A Dude’s Guide to Pinterest

How to man up and stick a pin in the girly online social network.

So when I first heard someone talking about this new social network Pinterest, I thought it was, y’know, maybe a Foursquare for avid bowlers. Or Twitter for really big fans of absurdist playwright Harold Pinter.

But seriously, I started hearing about this “pinboard” site a month or so ago. And if we’re being honest, I’d heard about it only from girls—who spoke so giddily  of “pinning” that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. I like to think of myself as a guy who’s in touch with his sensitive side, but the whole thing sounded like some sort of hybrid of scrapbooking and mash notes, aka, the last thing in the world I wanted anything to do with. Initial poking around on the site revealed lots of wedding planning foofery, a miasma of nursery schematics, lots of treacly/earnest inspirational postery things, and like a bajillion pairs of handcrafted earrings. (A search for “Pinterest” on blogs.phillymag.com to see if The Philly Post had covered this topic revealed nine results, all on Philadelphia Wedding‘s Bridal Bulletin blog.)

But I’ve heard Pinterest come up more and more frequently in conversation over the ensuing weeks. And since I’m a guy who likes to keep up on the latest ways of dispersing information both timely and picayune, I needed to jump on this Pinterest train and see where it took me.

What it is is, essentially, a place where you can collect images (and the links associated with them) and organize them by topic (like “OMG My Wedding!” or “Food”). If you ever turned a corkboard into a collage of magazine pictures you liked or, hell, decorated the inside of your middle-school locker with pages from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (because you were too young to realize that that kind of thing is sort of stupid if you’re not an auto mechanic in a movie), the concept is easy to grasp. Or, imagine a completely visual version of bookmark site del.icio.us.

So I joined Pinterest, which started out by asking me some questions about the kinds of things I liked and then suggested some people with similar interests to follow. These ended up being mostly dudes who I didn’t know, but I followed them because hey, Pinterest suggested it, and they seemed to be into some cool stuff. But Pinterest also asked me to link my Facebook page and, in doing so, automatically (I think; I wasn’t really paying attention) had me follow any of my nearly 1,500 Facebook friends who were Pinterest pinners.

And then something funny started happening. Because it turns out that the subset of my Facebook friends who are on Pinterest skews very heavily female, I started getting all of these emails, five or six a day, that this girl was now following me and that girl wanted to follow me. Made me feel a little bit like a pimp (and wonder what my Pinterested girlfriend would think). Of course, that feeling diminished a bit whenever I’d visit the site, which was full of the dresses and jewelry and you-go-girl slogans the people I followed were pinning.

At that point I had one or two measly little pins of my own (an R2-D2 bike helmet and a venn diagram depicting the overlapping interests of Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Beavis & Butt-Head), something like 20 times more followers than pins. So I got to work last night trying to figure out this whole racket and make my own pinboards feel a little more robust. Though they’re still pretty spare by Pinterest standards, I’ve now got boards for baseball and maps and records I like (“Listen Up”) and slogany stuff I agree with (“True Dat”) as well as the requisite stuff-I-want boards.

My girlfriend and I discussed the pros and cons of Pinterest on the way home from a Super Bowl party.

Pros: It’s very visual, which makes it a lot more fun to look at than, say, Twitter. It’s not timeline-oriented, so stuff you’ve pinned doesn’t, as it tends to on Twitter, Facebook and even Tumblr, disappear into the ether in an hour or day. It could be a great way to arrange art, photos or anything that can be expressed as a jpg file.

Cons: Well, at first blush, it seems like most people aren’t using it as much more than an online scrapbooking tool, something that drives my girlfriend nuts, explaining that it makes her crazy how much time people spend finding new ways to depict that they’re pregnant or to coyly reveal the gender of their unborn child. (FWIW, my girlfriend also finds it patronizing when people say it’s “like scrapbooking.” Says she: “There’s so much possibility for great curatorial boards.”)

Me, I’m mostly curious to see how this thing evolves, what happens if there’s an influx of dudes pinning up pinups or harder stuff. The nature of the site already seems to be in flux as it grows.

But until then, I’m becoming quite content hanging out in the kinder, gentler social network. I’ve found some great recipes, an e-card that precisely sums up my attitude toward sleep, and at least three pairs of earrings my girlfriend’s just going to die for.