Women have long used scrapbooks to curate their experiences,
celebrate accomplishments, and document memories. Now they are using the social
networking site Pinterest, which is visually similar to scrapbooking, but
doesn’t serve the same purpose. On Pinterest, women envision ideal versions of
themselves and their homes instead of celebrating who they have been and the
successes they have had.
In her recent article, Hillary A. Jones of California State
University, Fresno, identifies what she calls Pinterest’s “future-oriented
affective capacity of yearning.” In other words, Pinterest users collect and
broadcast their wishes for their lives rather than their accomplishments.
“Rather than helping to celebrate memories and successes, therefore, Pinterest
engages users in labor: curating yearning and self-surveilling,” Jones writes.
As their primary function, scrapbooks offer remembrance. In
the analog world, some women formed cropping groups to bond socially,
collaborate in honing their scrapbooking craft, and create practical objects
and rhetorical frames for their lives.
According to past
research, women have also used crafting to mobilize politically. Cropping
groups like the ones mentioned above have provided women with access to power
and the ability to revalue their own labor. Other researchers complicate
this view by highlighting issues such as the privilege required to engage in
Many women have sought to replicate these cropping group
experiences online, Jones explains, which has led to social media adapting
traditional practices into digital spaces such as Pinterest.
Pinterest is a digital, visual, bookmarking platform that
enables users to collect images and ideas they find online and on the rest of
the site. It is composed of individual images, or “pins,” presented as a stream
of collected images tiled on a single screen. Users pin images to thematic
“boards” that the user curates, presenting an aesthetic similar to matted
photos pasted to a scrapbook page. As a social networking site, Pinterest
encourages interaction. Users can locate new material to pin by following or
browsing others’ boards. The website has approximately 87.4 million confirmed
The traffic generated by Pinterest tends to lead to
consumption. One marketing
blog reported that, on average, “purchases driven through Pinterest are $168.83
per checkout—nearly double that of Facebook and Twitter.” Most Pinterest users would
not opt to watch several hours of advertising daily, but some spend several hours
a day on the site creating marketing profiles: curated boards containing the
items, practices, and experiences for which they yearn.
Pinning as Third-Shift Labor
In her essay, Jones explains that women traditionally work
three “shifts.” The first shift consists of paid labor outside the home. Women
also tend to engage in a second shift, performing domestic work to maintain the
home. Finally, scholars have theorized a third
shift, which accounts for unpaid activities that “purport to be leisure
activity but yield production that advantages capitalism.” Activities during
the third shift of labor might include maintaining body fitness, voluntarism
and community contributions, and working to improve the self in different ways.
Using this concept, scholars explain how capitalism can
convert leisure into new forms of labor. Women normally see their time on
websites such as Pinterest as leisurely and fun. However, Jones explains that Pinterest
causes women to feel what she calls “future-oriented yearning.” This yearning
leads women to virtually hoard images of products or practices for imaginary
future use or consumption, which creates a third shift of labor in women’s
leisure time, one that is aimed at perfecting the first and second shifts.
This future-oriented yearning differs from the mode of scrapbooks,
which is remembrance. To scrapbook, women put together what they have access to
when assembling the books. A scrapbook may contain photos and mementos from a
vacation or a child’s first day of school. This may produce yearning as
nostalgia, which is a longing for the past.
Pinterest, however, causes users to look to the future
across all aspects of their lives. The author notes that on June 18, 2016, the
first five pins on Pinterest’s “Popular” page “typified the broad range of
future-oriented yearning common to the site: a Louboutin shoe, a tip for
improving teaching, an abs workout, a parenting tip, and a house in Laguna
Beach, captioned “luxury design.”
Pinterest’s yearning engages users in imagining and
surveilling all parts of life. Looking through the site, says Jones, is like
being assailed by Vogue, Shape, GQ,
Better Homes & Gardens, and thousands of other magazines at once. On Pinterest,
women see a hyper-idealized world that coaches users how to govern almost every
aspect of their lives. Jones writes:
‘ideal’ woman constructed rhetorically on Pinterest plans perfect meals and
custom cocktails for perfect parties (that she makes all of the decorations
for, by hand, using repurposed materials), dresses a body honed by perfect
workouts with the ideal outfit, dons perfect makeup and nail polishes, dresses
her partner and children perfectly, and welcomes guests into a perfectly
designed home featuring perfect photos from perfect vacations and previous
While Pinterest might share some visual similarities to
scrapbooking, its promise of a space for imagining is undercut by the way it
engages women in capitalist behaviors, Jones argues. Instead of curating their
experiences or connecting with other people, women end up yearning for an ideal
future and surveilling every aspect of their lives.