Research and Academia

Bellow is a sample of my independent research project on the effects of Pinterest:

Abstract

Pinterest is website that is popularly known as the online scrapbook of social media. Often used as a point of reference for those who create, this website has grown in popularity exponentially throughout recent years. Pinterest has seemed to completely redefine creativity in a contemporary scope. Through the research that has been conducted in this study, it was shown that there were conflicting correlations between:

  1. Frequency of us and its relation to the self indentified ideas of creativity
  2. Identifying oneself as being unique or creative and the likelihood of refereeing to Pinterest for inspiration when executing a project or planning an event
  3. The creation of wedding boards and relationship statuses, which attributes to the notion of idealism

The study also revealed that majority of people do not try to recreate images they re-pin on Pinterest or if they do, the finished product only turns out to their desired outcome some of the times.

Introduction

 

Pinterest has grown to be one of the top social media sites on the World Wide Web. It functions as a virtual scrapbook, in which users can lay out their likes and interests.  With its users spending an average 98 minutes per month on the website, Pinterest is the third most engaging social media network (Polynczuk, 2013). It been the “fastest service to gain 10 million members, regardless of the possibility of acquiring membership via invitation only” (Polynczuk, 2013). The site finds its popularity mostly amongst women, with about 85% of Pinterest users being female (Smith, 2016). Some argue that Pinterest is the “social-media equivalent of dinner-party mingling or, to use a metaphor that returns to our low-tech past, of browsing shelves at a bookstore” (Gantz, 2015).

The creative output essentially “evolved from a tangible object into an aesthetic collection of digital pictures, or – more accurately – a set of hyperlinks leading to various worthwhile locations within the Web” (Polynczuk, 2013). Nevertheless, “the ideal of creativity as articulated on Pinterest still remains in the complex interdependency with consumption” (Polynczuk, 2013). In this research report there will four section discussing:

  1. Categories and frequency of use
  2. Consumerism and its relation to Pinterest
  • Creativity being redefined
  1. Idealism and Pinterest

Purpose

With this site’s growing in popularity and the limited research conducted on the study of its media effects, it is essential to take an in-depth look at its audience. Pinterest, being an image based site, is often coined as a being frivolous and “frequently dismissed as women-centric” (Almjield, 2015). On the contrary, Pinterest use holds a deeper meaning reaching far beyond frivolity. Categories like DIY projects, beauty, and fashion “can in fact be an important space for self- expression” for women (Levine, 2015). These types of expressions are “an important source of pleasure, a space where women can convey politics, personalities and preference and an important part of oppositional subcultures” (Levine, 2015). As users log in to the main page of the site, it “inevitably reflects back the user’s own recent pins, an affirmation that literally surrounds the user’s specific affinities, hobbies, and preferences with the taste culture of likeminded people” (Gantz, 2015). Pinterest demonstrates a “unique traffic in visual and verbal codes—an emerging online rhetoric that allows [… users] to establish personal networks, to express affinities and desires, and to create and regulate benchmarks of acceptable discourse within the parameters of social media” (Gatz, 2015).Rather than just studying what Pinterest users do, it is also valuable to study “why they behave this way [and] how they understand their own behaviors” (Chang et al., 2014).

Statement of the problem

Since Pinterest has yet to be studied in depth, this study will humbly try to get a deeper insight on the audience of the site.  Focusing more on the way in which users use this online vision board and relate these ideals to reality. This study seeks to discover if there is a correlating link between Pinterest, successful recreations, consumerism, idealism, and the ‘basic’ factor.

Scope and methods

The research was conducted through a web survey method, on surveymoneky.com. The survey was quite short; consisting of only seven questions that was made up of likert, multiple choices, and yes/no questions. There were two questions that had ‘other’ options, so the participants could elaborate or add additional comments. The survey was purposefully made short to give the participant more of an incentive to finish the survey. The online format was chosen specifically provide the online audience of Pinterest with a medium that they are definitely comfortable with.

Since a large majority of Pinterest users are women, the study was strictly targeted to female participants that had an account on the site. Participants were selected randomly through Facebook and Pinterest. The only criteria that were implemented in the selection of the sample were being female and having an account on the site. Other demographics where not asked when respondents were sent a link to the survey. Due to a limited source of resources and time restrictions, the samples were snowball and conveniently sampled.

One of the major limitations of an online survey is the lack of verification or authenticity of the answers participants provided, due to the anonymous nature of the method selected. Also with less than 30 overall respondents, this study is not as representative as a study with thousands of respondents. The questions also had a lack of elaboration due to the survey’s length. However through literature reviews and statistics, the results of this study still hold merit to answering the question at hand.

Analysis and discussion

 

  1. Categories and frequency of use

 

While Pinterest has a wide range of categories to browse though, the categories “Food&Drink, DIY&Craft, Home Décor and Women’s Fashion together account for over 45% of the content” (Change et al., 2014). The first question of the study was dedicated to category of content use. Subjects were allowed to choose more than one answer. The options were fairly standardized based on the popular uses of Pinterest, which included the categories mentioned above. The results of the first question confirm the above statistic with the majority of respondents saying that they use Pinterest for these kinds of content. In fact, the most popular use of Pinterest was finding DIY projects and ideas with about 60% of respondents agreeing. In addition to the top four categories, majority of respondents reported said that they also use Pinterest for the purpose of beauty tips, wedding ideas, and gift ideas (as shown in Figure 1).

 

Figure 1

question-2

In terms of frequency of use, respondents are either moderately active or not very active for the most part (as shown in figure 2). Unfortunately, there was not a question to quantify these categories which can be subjective. But broadly speaking, it was about half and half that said they are moderately active and the other half are active but not as much. There was only a small percentage that is very active on the site, specifically 11.5% of the total respondents. These results of this question should be kept in mind throughout this section of the study: they provide a scope of the frequency of use and in turn the connection of the respondent to the site.

 

Figure 2

question-5

 

  1. Pinterest redefining Creativity: Consumerism and Creativity

 

One of the areas that were examined in this study was the idea of consumerism and its relation to Pinterest. It seems that the most popular boards on Pinterest tend to “demonstrate somewhat more ‘consumerist’ approach, often presenting tangible goods […] that one can buy straight from the outlet” (Polynczuk, 2013). Language on Pinterest is even “characterized by words of consumption and desire: ‘use’, ‘look’, ‘want’, and ‘need’” (Chang et al., 2014). Consumerism is almost inescapable on Pinterest, whether users are just looking through their feed or planning to recreate an image they re-pinned. Most projects require those who want to recreate them, to go out and buy items to replicate the particular image. Some argue that this concept “is consistent with the recognised tendency in the modern Western society to frame and express individual’s social identity through material and immaterial consumption” (Polynczuk, 2013). What is creativity in a modern standpoint? With the rise of image based sites, individuals tend to have ideological ideals of how something should look. Is creativity characterized by being able to come up with one’s own ideas? Or is it now based on one’s ability to go out and buy all the materials one needs, and replicate something that one has seen online?

The creative identity on Pinterest “seems not to be grounded in the consumables but in the creative activities she could – at least potentially – perform using” consumer goods (Polynczuk, 2013). Some boards are even used “for some commercial purposes, such as selling items or marketing business [, which are not] disruptive” (Polynczuk, 2013). Online hand-craft stores like Etsy advertise on Pinterst. Etsy itself is a “throwback to the way consumerism used to be, individuals buying from individuals, and re-creating old forms of virtual market bazaars” (Polynczuk, 2013). They offer ready- made products, which essentially “constitute a point of departure of further creative activities” (Polynczuk, 2013). People now obtain the DIY items they see on Pinterest, with just a click of a button. This requires no creative effort whatsoever.

Figure 3

question-2

In the survey, when asked how often a project inspired from Pinterest resulted in success, majority of the respondents said their results were hit or miss (42.3%), while only 7.6% said that they almost always get the desired results (as illustrated in figure 3). There is a question of if certain purchased material were needed in order for the respondents to successfully recreate said image. Did they need to buy a certain kind of product to make their vision a reality? Or perhaps, it is the creative ability that is in question. If these people had the right materials and the project still turned out poorly, it is safe to conclude that this person did not have enough creative capacity? This further emphasizes the notion that Pinterest complicates the definition of creativity – it is convoluted with the element of consumerism.

Another 34.5 % of respondents, on the other hand, had said that they had never tried to recreate an image they had seen on the site. Do these results speak to a lack of interest or an absence of general creative ability? Due to the lack of elaboration, this question cannot be adequately answered. Regardless, it can be concluded that people are either trying to recreate images off of Pinterest and receiving mediocre results or they are not attempting to at all.

  • The ‘Basic’ Factor and Creativity

 

Whilst people refer to Pinterest for interest, they often do not refer to any other sources. Although the newsfeed seems to be an endless stream of idea, everyone seems to be looking at the same images. The very act of repining, which does not “require searching the Internet […, limits the user to browse] through Pinterest resources exclusively” (Polynczuk, 2013). It can be argued that it creates a certain set of standards of what things should look like. This brings about the idea of a ‘Pinterest-looking’ room or wedding, for example; rather than looking unique to the person presenting it.

In the survey, respondents were asked two questions to speak to this issue. They were asked about how likely they were to refer to the site for inspiration, if they had a project or an event. The majority of respondents said that it was very likely or likely to turn to Pinterest for inspiration (as seen in figure 4). They were also asked if they would describe themselves as a unique or creative person. Most of the respondents, about 54%, agreed that they see themselves as creative or unique (as seen in figure 5).  From the results illustrated in figure 2, most of the respondents had said that they are operatively active on the site. These results reveal that those who consider themselves unique or create would search for Pinterest for inspiration and are relatively active use it. These results all to question once again: how does one define creativity? Does creativity have to do with originality of ideas or does it simply involve the ability to successfully recreate someone else’s original idea?

Figure 4

question-4

Traditionally, “creativity has been associated with and attributed to an individual genius of sorts [, which] elicits a model of creativity dependent on and composed of individuals, knowledge domains, and a field of informed experts” (Polynczuk, 2013). With the introduction of  the internet, there was a new way of presenting “real-world creative outcome, as well as new tools of communicating and connecting with like-minded people, discovering a shared purpose, and eventually building a community” (Polynczuk, 2013). Pinterest is without a doubt a community that shares and collects ideas of personal interest. But some argue that the act of pinning “has a secondary and reproductive character: pinning is rather collecting than creating any original content” (Polynczuk, 2013). Pinterest tends to supports mass self-communication, with “86.2% of time spent on the site by the average user [being strictly] dedicated to pinning [with] approximately 80% of all pins are in fact repins” (Polynczuk, 2013).

Figure 5

question-6

Creativity became more ordinary, which resulted in the attention being “diverted from the uniqueness of the end product, and placed on the very mundane act of doing” (Polynczuk, 2013). If ordinary creativity is focused more on doing rather than creating or sharing, are the majority of people, who do not try to recreate the images they re-pin, still considered creative? Pinterest users tend to “express themselves, first and foremost, through the inspirations they publish, and, to a lesser extent, through their actual creative enterprises” (Polynczuk, 2013). Pinterest redefines the idea of creativity, with the “complex interdependency [on] consumption”, and self communication.

  1. Idealism

 

The final area that was addressed in this study was the phenomenon of idealism and Pinterest.  As a virtual vision board, the site allows users to lay out their ideal selves and personal meaning-making (Almjeld, 2015). Whether it is creating a vision board for an idyllic bedroom or the perfect wedding, there is a sense of expectation of the way things manifest into reality. Users utilize Pinterest “to construct their ideal selves […and allows them] to perceive herself as a person she would like to be” (Polynczuk, 2013).

In the study the question of wedding boards as a case study, and correlation to relationship statuses, were examined. Were users creating boards to simply idealize over an event that is not likely to happen in the near future?  Almost 70% of the respondents admitted to having a board dedicated to weddings on their Pinterest accounts (as shown in figure 6). When it came to relationship status, only 26.9% were in relationships, while  46.13% said they were single (As seen in figure 7, this was a combination of respondents who said they were happily single, single and dating, and divorced/ separated/ or widowed). There was also 19.23% who described their relationship status as complicated, which can either be categorized as single or taken, but murky nonetheless in terms of categorization. Hypothetically if one was to consider these women single or not close to becoming married in the near future, there would be about 65% of respondents that were single. About 69% who have wedding boards on Pinterest, there is almost 70% that are not planning a wedding. It is safe to conclude that there is a positive correlation between wedding boards and an idealization that is contrary to the reality. These women do not seem to be creating these boards with the intention to plan an event. They are simply making a vision board of an idealized version of an event that may or may not happen in the near future.

 

Figure 6

question-3

To continue on the topic of wedding board and a broader topic of event planning, Pinterest is a huge source of reference for people planning major events. Pinterest is said to be “akin to shopping in stores with no price tags” (Velasco, 2013). People are seeing “the same images, [and wanting] the same standard without regard to what their financial situation is” (Velasco, 2013). This can lead to a sense of disappointment: often times individual’s reality does not measure up to the idealized vision they have created online. As the prices of event planning rise, “gap grows between expectations and budget [ -] some blame the high aspirations set by image-rich social websites, like Pinterest” (Velasco, 2013).

Figure 7

question-7

These ideas can also be reflected in other types of boards, with different content such as body inspiration boards or interior design boards, for example. They all seem to display an “artful and enviable combinations of consumer goods without having to suffer the pains of the price tag” (Gantz, 2015). The “all-purpose catch phrase ‘Yes, please’ has become the common articulation in the comments section of a whole range of desires on display in Pinterest” (Gantz, 2015). The politeness of the this tag phrase “ implies the pinner’s aspirations to belong, to participate in enjoying whatever it is that has not yet been enjoyed” (Gantz, 2015). There is almost a sense of longing in the perception of these images – but often times the reality of the user’s financial, disciplinary or creative ability for example, cannot make these images manifest into a reality.

Conclusions

In conclusion Pinterest ultimately essentially redefines creativity, functioning as much more than just a virtual scrapbook. Creativity is given a complex definition made up of creative abilities and consumption.  Pinterest provides “the conditions necessary to benefit from such combined knowledge, that is the relatively [large] community, the [low] cost of sharing that knowledge, the clarity of what gets shared, and the cultural norms of the recipients” (Polynczuk, 2013).  The community “of pinners redefined and customised the concept of creativity according to their needs” (Polynczuk, 2013).

As proven by the study, majority of women are moderately active on the site. A greater part of the women who responded proved that there is conflicting correlation between the fact that they would most likely to refer to the site for inspiration and considering themselves unique and creative.  These results also brought into question the definition of creativity and uniqueness. Since majority of Pinterest activity is monopolized by repining available content on the site alone, unique or original ideas are spars on the site. Referring to a site that has a set amount of images, despite how endless scrolling may seem, speaks negatively to the statement of uniqueness in terms to ideas and execution of those ideas.

The question of creativity is also examined. With the notion of the Pinterest definition of creativity being something that one can recreate, respondents were asked about successful recreations. Most of the respondents claimed that their Pinterest-inspired projects only turned out well some of the times.  It can be concluded to a certain extent that majority of user either do not try to recreate images or do try, but do not have the adequate skills or resources to recreate these projects.

And finally, there was also a conflicting connection between relationship statuses and wedding boards. The idea of idealism was examined through the case study of wedding boards on Pinterest. Where women who had wedding boards actually planning for the event of their wedding or creating a vision board for an idealized event to which they do not know the date of? The results proved that the majority of women who use Pinterest are indeed idealizing the reality of the images they repin.

Recommendations

Since this study was done on a smaller scale, it would be suggested for a more in-depth analysis and study to be done. The sample needs to much larger and taken from more varying age, ethnicity, and region for example. There also needs more detailed questions added to this study. This will in term answer the research question more adequately, as well as be more statistically representative.

References

Almjeld, J. (2015). Collecting Girlhood: Pinterest Cyber Collections Archive Available Female Identities. Girlhood Studies8(3), 6-22.

Chang, S., Kumar, V., Gilbert, E., & Terveen, L. G. (2014, February). Specialization, homophily, and gender in a social curation site: findings from pinterest. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work & social computing (pp. 674-686). ACM.

Gantz, Katherine (2015). (Re)Pinning Our Hopes on Social Media: Pinterest and Women’s Discursive Strategies. Journal of Feminist Scholarship, (5).

Levine, E. (Ed.). (2015). Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early Twenty-first Century. University of Illinois Press.

Polynczuk, K. N. (2013). “A million DIY projects.” The Netnographic Study of Pinterest as a Creative Community for Women (Doctoral dissertation).

Smith, C. (2016, March 9). 270 Amazing Pinterest Statistics. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/pinterest-stats/

 

Velasco, S. (2013, May 19). Will Pinterest ruin your wedding? The Christian Science Monitor.

 

 

 

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