I'm a Facebook addict. I had to “LOL” when I read a statistic that the average user spends about seven hours every month on Facebook. When several friends started posting about Pinterest, exclaiming, "Wow, this is more addictive than Facebook," I thought, "uh-oh." The last thing I need is another compulsion. Still, my curiosity got the best of me. Here's the scoop.
Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/) is a social, image-sharing website that functions like a shareable scrapbook. You “pin” images to your virtual board from the Internet, other user's boards or your own computer. Create theme-based image collections for all of your interests, from redecorating your home to your favorite recipes. Planning a wedding? Create a board filled with pictures of your favorite wedding dresses, flowers and cakes. Mom and your maid of honor can comment upon your choices and pin their own suggestions. You can browse other people's boards, follow their topics to see when new pins are added, or follow the whole person if their tastes are similar to yours. Share anything another user has posted by either "liking" it (similar to Facebook) or by "re-pinning" to your own board. The number of images you can pin to a board is unlimited.
Joining is by invite-only so if you don’t know someone who's already a member you join the waiting list. The wait wasn't too long - I was "invited" about 24-hours after I provided my email address. They require a current Facebook or Twitter account to join, but you decide how much or how little of your Pinterest activities you'd like to share.
What makes it addictive? A sleek, icon-free design allows the images you post to take center stage. Comments and "likes" are minimal and stacked neatly, so there's less distraction from what you'd like to showcase. Action buttons are hidden from view until you mouse over them. Looking at a friend's board, I see images of varying shapes and sizes, but they fit seamlessly alongside each other into one cohesive expression of her theme. It compels me to be more creative with the boards I put together, and gives me ideas about cooking, crafting, etc. that I'd like to try. Because people are talking about things they really love, you walk away with an overall level of excitement for practically everything you view. See something intruiging and you're compelled to share.
Social media requires precautions to protect your privacy and safety. Pinterest is no exception:
1. Beware of copyright infringements. When sharing images created by someone else, give credit where it's due - you'd want the same if it were your idea.
2. Adult content (profanity and "racier" images) abounds, so supervise your young adult “pinners.”
3. Check the source. Some people fabricate stories or use Photoshop to get people to follow them, or re-pin their images.
4. Like all social media, Pinterest is targeted by retailers looking to capitalize on a (free) pool of motivated “pinners” to sell their products through word-of-mouth. Be alert for the hidden sales pitch.
5. Clicking on images leads you to outside websites, and they aren’t always legit. Beware of scammers and run your anti-virus and anti-malware software often.
The Pinterest homepage showcases the most popular images being pinned, primarily arts and crafts, personal style, fashion, and home décor. Online crafts marketplace Etsy (www.etsy.com) is the source for the largest number of pins, and Pinterest links to many women's lifestyle magazines. If this seems a little “girlie” for your tastes, Gentlemint (http://gentlemint.com/) and Dartitup (http://dartitup.com/) may provide you with the more masculine images that Pinterest is lacking. Serious shoppers looking to buy directly through the website without the middle man should check out Fancy (www.thefancy.com), a spinoff of Pinterest.