Never before have so many creators and makers had such a large and easily accessible audience. It’s exciting to think about all the incredible new products that will find their way into the world because of this.
But there’s a dark side to the rise of maker culture that goes beyond the seemingly incessant flow of cat gifs and poorly lit photos of food: we’re losing our ability to stumble across something new, something that surprises us, in an unexpected place. We’re slowly, inexorably, drifting toward a future where everything is predictable, homogenous and sterile.
Welcome to The End of Discovery, a blog about the death of the serendipity machine that made the Internet so magical and strange.
“I’m done with Pinterest,” the woman behind the counter said. “I’m just not seeing anything inspiring, and it’s gotten too big.”
A friend overheard her and chimed in: “Facebook is better anyway. I get to see more of my friends.”
The two women were talking about where they find inspiration for their home decorating projects. As my friend and I walked away, we agreed that both social media sites had become less useful as a source for things to buy. Pinterest is cluttered with DIY projects, while Facebook has become dominated by ads.
Trouble is, neither site has much by way of search functionality. So how can you find something specific? In the past, we’d use Google to do a search (for example, “buy art online” or “buy original artwork”). But Google has gotten so noisy that it’s hard to get a sense of what’s really good and what’s mediocre or bad.
Nowadays, I don’t even bother using Google anymore. Instead, I rely on an old-fashioned way of doing things: asking friends for recommendations from personal experience. And that brings me full circle back to social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest. Because these days, people are sharing fewer links on these sites
On Pinterest, all the art is perfect. Your home will look exactly like the ones portrayed on Pinterest. The only problem? No one can afford to buy it.
It’s not like this is a new problem: anyone who has ever bought something on Etsy (or anywhere, really) knows that handmade things don’t always turn out. But with vintage and handmade items, there’s room for interpretation: if you don’t like the way a skirt fits, you can wear it in a different way. With mass-produced art or home goods, there’s no wiggle room. It either looks great in your home, or it doesn’t.
Trying out things from Pinterest had become my weekly ritual, but eventually I realized that I was just getting more and more disappointed every week because nothing looked as good in real life as it did on the app. There are some things you just have to see in person before you buy it — and I’m not talking about furniture or other big-ticket items here.
I’ve been a Pinterest user since it first appeared in 2010. I used it to find new projects, recipes, outfits, and more. But in recent months, I’ve noticed that Pinterest’s curation has gotten worse. Instead of finding interesting things on the site, which is the point after all, I’m finding things that are almost exactly like the things I already have.
For instance, I will log on and there will be an image of red boots. They will be $50. And there will be a link to Buy It Now or some other website where they can be purchased for $50 or slightly more. Well why not? If you are going to make me look at an outfit, at least provide the outfit. Not some pin that links me to a website where I can buy a similar outfit for $50 instead of $40 somewhere else.
I don’t mean to pick on Pinterest per se; this phenomenon is happening on many social media sites. For example Tumbler and Instagram both now have features where you post your photos and then people can reblog them with their own comments. This is a great way to share your images with people who wouldn’t otherwise see them and who might give you feedback about how you could improve your photography
I have been a writer for a long time. I have written for newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine and Salon.com. I have also published several books and ebooks under my own name and pen names. I am passionate about writing.
Now my husband and I are launching a new blog called The Artful Blogger. It is devoted to showcasing art made by amateur artists who sell their work online and to giving these artists exposure in the hope that they will become more successful.*
There are many times when we are looking for something handmade to buy as a gift or for ourselves, but it is not easy to find new artists in Etsy or Pinterest because they get buried under thousands of other items.*
That’s why we started this blog: to showcase these talented people who deserve to be seen.*
We also want to help them grow their businesses by offering free services as often as possible.*
We’re beginning with an interview with JellieBox, who makes beautiful jewelry from polymer clay and sells it on Etsy.*
The average American household generates more than 4 pounds of trash a day. That’s over 1,500 pounds per year. It’s also a lot of money. The average American family throws away $1500 in food waste each year, on top of all the other stuff they throw away that had to be bought new like paper towels, cleaning products, and pet food.
What’s the solution to this problem? Buying fewer things that have to be thrown out. Buying things that are built to last and don’t get thrown out. Achieving a minimalist lifestyle where you buy less so you can consume less.
The internet is full of blogs that offer tips for helping you buy less crap and live better with what you already have. But the internet is also full of blogs about how your life will be better if you buy more crap. Pinterest is especially full of those blogs, since it’s actually just one big blog about how your life will be better if you buy more crap.
So how do you decide which blogs are worth paying attention to?
I’m not sure what the opposite of “disruptive” would be – perhaps “conservative” or just “perverse.” But I feel like this is an example of companies disrupting themselves.
Think about it: search engines (especially Google) are a key source for traffic to those sites, and there’s nothing more important for online businesses than getting high-quality traffic.
In other words, by buying Pintester, Pinterest is undermining their own business. I’m not sure how a company could be any more “perverse.”
(As with all posts of mine, I have no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned.)