The darker side of Pinterest. Or, death by a thousand imported Japanese washi paper cuts

scotch tape. as god intended it to look. I love Pinterest. Loooove. Ever since we really started getting into our Pinterest boards for Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech I have found a wealth of inspiration, beauty, gift ideas, and general loveliness.

Also, complete batshit insanity.

Last night I come across a pin–I kid you not–featuring a DIY tutorial on redecorating your disposable 99-cent Scotch Tape dispenser.

I’ll let you sit with that one just a moment.

Evidently the old familiar tartan green plaid cardboard insert now requires an upgrade to something a little less Braveheart.

More surprising still, there were likes. There were oohs and aahs. There were repins–lots of them–and not onto boards called “batshit crazy DIY” either–or as Kristen Howerton cleverly puts it, diWHY?

Now I know that there is a vast and admirable lot of crafty people in the world.  Really, I envy those women who make their own spring seed packet kits and hand them out as Easter gifts along with hand-felted bunnies that can be converted into brooches. I envy those who spend more time wrapping presents than most people do attending the actual birthday party. Some of them are my friends. Some of them are my relatives. Some of them are my stepmother, who I believe is physically incapable of handing someone a gift that does not look perfectly coiffed, gussied up, and ready for its close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Beautification as a priority in life; it’s kind of admirable when I think about it that way.

I’ve dabbled just a little in this world. I even took Design Mom‘s advice last year and sorted one single small bookshelf by color, and it now makes me inordinately happy to stare at it from my (unmade) bed each day. So I do see the joy of turning the ordinary into something just a little less so. Even if I am not so crafty.

But when I discover tutorials on lining the inside of your trashcan with imported washi paper, converting a diaper caddy into a lovely spring hat, or creating intricate creepy creature muffin-tin snacks that probably require 16 hours of preparation not including trips to four different international groceries across Astoria just so your kid can pull out the eyes and go, “ew…I hate raisins,”  I have to wonder, who are these people?

And uh, would they mind coming to my house some time and helping me tackle a few projects, what with all that free time?

I still have phone calls to return from 2008. I have children that haven’t been bathed in two days, I have a suitcase from SxSW that still requires unpacking, I have a high-tech humidfier on the windowsill taunting me with its red, blinky refill light, and and 63 apps (yes, 63) on my iPhone that are screaming for an upgrade, as the Apple Store guy not so subtly admonished me last week. I have piles of dishes where they don’t belong, piles of laundry where they don’t belong, and a good 12 days worth of outfits threatening to topple my desk chair if you so much as breathe near it.

My to-do list is an ugly, ugly thing.

And so is my Scotch Tape dispenser.

If I can find it.

It’s around here somewhere. I think.


65 thoughts on “The darker side of Pinterest. Or, death by a thousand imported Japanese washi paper cuts”

  1. Ha! I am sort of crafty, but never ever finish a project. To my husband’s dismay, I have thousand of boxes in my attic/dump with blankets that yet have to be sewed, paintings that have to be framed, (I could go on and on)
    In addition to that, there are piles of laundry that threaten to induce an earthquake , clothes in my kids closets that have been outgrown and out seasoned (I try to consider that I am ahead, not behind, Spring WILL be back)
    So if you find somebody with that free time, send them my way (to Lebanon Middle East by the way) I ll make them finish that knitting project I started when I was pregnant with my now 5yo

  2. It’s fun to look at.

    I think of it as a dreamstate while I”m awake.

    Hence people’s wackadoo projects.

    In their dreams, they decorate the inside of garbage cans.

    In mine, I get enough time in the shower to shave my legs.

  3. We just wrote about this topic on our blog (scroll back a few days) and have an upcoming chat about all things awesome and spectacularly nuts about Pinterest. We also started a “counterpinning” account on Pinterest to pin images of life as we live it, not as we wish it was.

    1. The Pinterest chat is up at our blog now, so if you are interested in furthering the conversation about the ups and downs of Pinning, you might check it out!

  4. The tape is my kid’s department. They are the keepers of the tape. But oh man, I check in to Pinterest every once in a while- mainly to pin things I want to buy but shouldn’t. Somehow pinning it helps. But I’m not big on the crafty part of it (except I did follow-through with the “make your own bubbles” in a container with a spout last summer, complete with chalkboard appliqué.)

  5. I just Do Not Get Pinterest, and here, you’ve hit the nail on the head as to why — I can look around and see all sorts of examples of how I’m doing it wrong, just need to get organized, etc., etc. I don’t really want to give my inner judgey mcjudgepants more material to work wit.

    1. I think if you’re the type who has ever hung inspirational stuff on bulletin boards, hung up photographs you love, or ripped out magazine pages for design inspiration–or if you like shopping–then Pinterest is just fantastic. I really do love it!

      I love Oh Joy’s Illustration Board which is so helpful for work.

      Alpha Mom’s 50 things to do with kids
      city series is wonderfully helpful.
      And I’ve jotted down quite a few must-haves and wanna-haves on our own tech+gorgeous board.

      Just stay away from the “DIY IF YOU HAVE TOO MUCH FREE TIME” boards. That’s what makes me feel all kinds of insecure.

  6. Thank you for this post. Sounds like we have similar desk chairs. You have inspired me to start a Pinterest board of my piles, dust-balls, burnt eggs, etc. and call it “Reality.”

  7. In my fantasy world my to-do list is a hell-ya-I’m-done, my children’s homework is finished at a reasonable hour, all school papers are signed and returned on time, I complete projects before 3am, and my house is spotless. Also I’m quite crafty. In my fantasy world.
    I love Pinterest, but it sometimes makes me feel as if I’m lacking the get your crap together gene.

  8. If you’ve got the time and energy to make something out of old tape dispensers (other than booze), then I wish they’d pin how they got that time and energy.

    THAT’s something I’d repin.

  9. Well said. I’ve not joined Pinterest for fear of being sucked in to never return. Your post reminds me of Martha Stewart’s impact on homekeeping. I have a subscription to MS Living, and I love it, but it took a while for me to read it on my own terms. There is a lot to learn there, but I’m never even going to come up to Martha’s ankles, so to speak. BTW diWhy is really funny. Love your writing–keep it up.

  10. So, you’re saying that you’re not interested in how I carefully turn each of my vitamin and anti-depressant bottles into miniature panoramic landscapes so that they please my eye every morning when I open the medicine cabinet? Harumph.

  11. *stands up and raises hand* My name is Alyssa and I’m…a craft junkie. I’ll admit I’ve had to stop myself from collecting designer duct tape in all colors and patterns. Not that I NEED it, I just want it. But even I have my limits. I can’t say I’ve felt the need to decoupage tape dispensers. I found this brooch on Etsy a while back that was hailed for being made of “upcycled toilet paper rolls” and all I could think was “EW!” Sorry, those are totally acceptable for art my 4 and 6 year old make at home, but I SO don’t want to buy something that’s been collecting germs in your bathroom!

    One of my favorite pastimes is finding wacky craft items on Etsy and Tweeting them to my other craft buds. We have a good laugh. I should start pinning them!

  12. If someone is that desperate to decorate that they’ll decorate a tape dispenser, I would gladly and wholeheartedly like to extend an invite to my house. They could redecorate and reorganize to their hearts content!

    While we are on the subject of Pinterest confessions, I’ve pinned plenty of healthy recipes and haven’t made one. Not. One. I have pretty craft projects that are so cute I’ve had to move that specific board down so that I’m not reminded of the fact that I have yet to make them. Sigh..

  13. The tape is with the scissors. Also, converting a diaper caddy into a lovely spring hat? Ew. It would probably smell like Pampers forever.

    I confess a deep love for that japanese tape – but I use it to gussy up presents that I’ve wrapped in newspaper and other recycled papers. It’s like instant gift wrapping – no ribbons needed. Your stepmother might be horrified.

  14. I have boards such as “bathing suits that might make me look good, or, at least not embarrassed at the neighborhood pool” and “foods I can eat that have no calories and will trick my sweet tooth into submission” and “great music” and “doing good” and “Jon Hamm” and “hey wait even I could do that.” So it mainly involves things i think are good to know and remember more than cool crafty things to do. Because frankly, I am just not all that cook-y or craft-y. Unless you mean crafty like a fox.

  15. We have dozens of rolls of Scotch tape we can never find. Whenever I am about to wrap a present, one of us will run out to CVS to purchase yet another roll, never to be seen again. Is the dog eating them? Maybe I should try bedazzling them.

  16. I love Pinterest, too, but died laughing when I saw this one:

    I had to repin and ask if we are really doing this–I mean, do we really care what our staples look like? To the point that we are going to spend actual time coloring them with a marker??

    Sadly, I never got an answer.

    1. I’m dying. Mostly because it’s true, there are times I’ve looked at my sad, ordinary staples holding together my IRS forms shed a tear of despair that they weren’t more lively.

      1. I confess I have a drawer of *purchased* colored staples. My high school students love them; every time they turn in an essay there is much excitement over the colored (pink! purple! blue! and yes, gold!) staples. But you wouldn’t catch me making my own… yet another reason I haven’t joined Pinterest. Yet.

  17. Love this post since it reminded me of my to-do list, and I too haven’t unpacked my suitcase from SXSW. In fact, I only unpacked my suitcase from Toy Fair the day I needed to pack for SXSW. Oddly though, I’ve spent time on Pinterest pinning other people’s organization ideas instead of actually organizing. I also pin other people’s amazing birthday party ideas even though I called the nearest bouncy place for my son’s party because I just am not that crafty and don’t have that much time. Why would I do this? And why do I find Pinterest some darn relaxing? For a few minutes a day, I can daydream that I’m the kind of mom who decorates cupcakes to look like the Angry Birds or who has a color-coordinated closet and who has oh so much free time to do things like that. Pinterest is like a trip to a mental spa for me.

    1. Ooh that’s a fascinating psychological study Debbie – we spend time organizing organizing ideas but it keeps us from actually doing the organizing. It’s like living in the land of wishful thinking. Mental spa is a beautiful description by the way.

      Any therapists want to weigh in?

    2. You know… back when I traveled a lot for work, someone gave me a “guide to not going crazy when you travel a lot for work.” OK, it probably had a catchier name, but I can’t remember it.

      Anyway, one of the tips was to NOT unpack. You buy two of all your toiletries, etc, and just leave them packed. You come home, pull all the clothes out of your bag, and the store it away, so that next time you just have to put some new clothes back in.

      I have to say, this was an awesome tip. I travel maybe three or four times a year these days… but I still have a duplicate set of toiletries, all stashed in my bag, ready to go.

  18. I kinda get it, but not really. I mean, if I have free time, I will do something with it. Or stare at a wall. But to read about projects that I COULD be doing? No thanks. There are some neat ideas, for sure. And I have gotten a few ideas that are probably from Pinterest. But… meh. I’d rather sit outside on a lovely day, with my messy and unorganized home behind me, in my messy and unorganized yard, and have a glass of wine with my husband while the kids use the scotch tape on the windows. THAT sounds like the best way to utilize my free time.

  19. I have a nice place for my crafty stuff.. Thanks for sharing this awesome stuff! 🙂

  20. The only way the tape dispenser in my house is going to get gussied up is if my daughter does it. And hey, if it keeps her happy while I cook dinner- more power to her.

  21. I unfollowed all the Super Crafter boards. Mostly because I look at that stuff and think, “Yeah, but what’s the clean-up factor?”

    Also? Any crazy fingernail boards. Gone. At 42, I can’t really get away with a Cat In The Hat mani/pedi.

    I created a board called Vanguards – women pioneers in any industry so I can show my daughter, “look-if they can, so can you.” I love Pinterest for curating things like that. Photography, vintage jewelry, places-I-dream-of-traveling-to boards – fun. Hello Kitty fingernails? Decorated craft dispensers? A *tad* nutty.

    1. I too have an automatic unfollow policy on anything fingernail related that isn’t ironic. What is that?

      Can’t wait to check out your Vanguards–what a great idea.

  22. I totally agree with Debbie! The only time I ever watched interior design shows was when I was pregnant. It was, in retrospect, my befuddled and completely incompetent way of nesting.

    I see pinterest, besides it’s use as a memory aid, in much the same way. Entertainment and relaxation. I can’t wait until there’s a regretsy-type version. I image tape dispensers (and possibly stuff I’ve pinned) will be worth infinite laughs!

    1. Yes! That’s Kristen Howerton’s site that I linked to above–the wonderful, clever source of diWhy.
      Also checkout Pinsanity, or where it all began.

  23. My takeaway from this? Someone else’s kids are also going two-ish days without a bath! Glad to know I’m not the only person sending dirty children into the world. Some nights I just can’t muster up the energy to bathe three kids after a nine hour workday.

  24. I also pin other people’s amazing birthday party ideas even though I called the nearest bouncy place for my son’s party because I just am not that crafty and don’t have that much time.

  25. I’ve never actually made any of those awesome, crafty things from Pinterest. I always pin them thinking “Yeah, I’ll DEFINITELY do this one” but uhh, it never happens. With the amount of time I’ve sat in front of Pinterest on my computer, I probably could have redecorated 20 Scotch tape dispensers.

  26. Honestly? I’ve wanted to get this out for a long time, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But, here goes…I like cooking and there are some DIY things out there that look interesting to me, but in many DIY cases I can’t help but feel that a lot of projects look like pointless, frivolous busy work that mostly women get bogged down with when they could be doing something more substantive. Excessive, pointless DIY (and by that I mean along the lines of decorating your tape dispenser, not stuff like making a sweater) seems like something that we women should take a long, hard look at. A lot of those tape dispenser projects announce to me “My time is not valuable at all! See how very unimportant my time is?!” I hate poo-pooing anything that people enjoy that doesn’t hurt others, but there’s a line somewhere and it at least vaguely intersects with some antiquated ideas about how women are expected to spend their time.

    1. I think you are right; there are some women who probably feel they’re fulfilling some sort of biblically sanctioned imperative to frugally upcycle their used cotton balls and weave them into scarves or something. And there are probably some women who just get lost in projects without seeing the greater world outside their notions drawer. But I know a couple women like this and I think some of them just really really enjoy creating anything at all, and challenging themselves to make even the most banal things beautiful. My stepmother would not be beyond swarovski crystal bedazzling her stapler (am I right Amye?) and I bet it would look awesome. She simply enjoys it. I kind of think it’s weird, and I kind of admire it too.

      As long as the world doesn’t expect me to do the same I think I’m good with it.

    1. I think you’re joking…but I’m not ready to make the leap to child neglect. Too many people have made that accusation about blogging as well.

      I will say however that paperclip redecorators are probably neglecting their blogs. Hey! What’s with that!

  27. I so agree with you! very funny. I love doing a craft with my daughter, it is relaxing. but most of the time I am struggling to keep up with the daily chores of work, and kids and meals etc…
    definitely NO TIME for redecorating tape dispensers!

  28. LMAO! Yes, people get carried away with some of the Pinterest posts but then the tend to do hat with most social networks. But decorating the inset in a throwaway plastic tape dispenser?! Way too much time on their hands! I have lots to keep them occupied, throw them in my direction please!

  29. Actually you do get clicks to your website. If you click the pin, it takes you to the source…which may be your site. Pins are notonly photos. They may be graphic representation of web content.

  30. I usually don’t comment, because of the perceived sense of urgency of chores and lack of time, but could not resist this time. Thank you so much for writing this article and expressing so fluently what (I assume) some of us feel. You are spot on! All the overstimulation of inspiration and craftiness of others can at times contribute to discontent with self. Good to know I am not the only one who feel this way at times.

    1. Thanks for taking the time Vusala. Even though you could have used it to decoupage your toilet plunger.

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