P is for Pinterest… And Pink

(Image I spliced together from here and here)

Inspired by its mention during a social media presentation by Jesse Hirsh, I finally got my butt on to Pinterest. And now in waiting for my invitation, I think I’ve worn out the refresh button on my Gmail and frustrated my Facebook friends with all the content that I couldn’t help but share (come on, cartoons! And P90X memes!).

It’s certainly easy to be impressed with the great functionality of the site (I love that it’s seamless to re-post content to my other social media platforms rather than Pinterest making me choose between them as competitors). It’s also easy to be critical, what with the heat they’re taking over making a profit on the consumer items people pin. Though, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Building on my last post, I find it strange that people would post stuff they want to buy and then get upset when someone makes money off the free advertising they’ve volunteered to do… Everybody gotta make a buck, even social media providers; sites have to be profitable in order to exist.

It’s also easy to be critical of the content. When I hit the homepage my first thought was: “I can see why 80% of the users are women, it looks like every women’s magazine I’ve ever seen!” which is probably what caused the author of this article to note that demographically it’s a “reverse image of the…male-dominated social networks like Reddit.” As someone who has tried to catch up to social media and what’s hot on the web by keeping an eye on Reddit, I’m extremely curious to see how this will all play out as Pinterest gains even more popularity and becomes fully public (MY INVITE IS STILL NOT HERE).

Although I think Reddit’s structure is genius – popular content floats to the top based on user ratings, ‘upvotes’ or ‘downvotes’, and users get cred, ‘karma’, for posting content that garners a lot of upvotes – I’ve been disappointed by the actual content time and again. I haven’t put a lot of effort into tailoring or customizing what shows up on my frontpage, but with the default configuration the items I mostly see are angry atheist rants, guys upset about their girlfriends or girls in general, geek/programming/computer/Internet-related items, and the occasional item related to bodily functions. The site itself is also pretty ugly, especially compared to the elegant look of Pinterest. That’s not to say I haven’t been entertained by the occasional cat video or ‘I Am A’ autobiographical threads and Pinterest will likely accumulate its own share of junk and seedy stuff that is inevitable on sites where content is publicly generated (which I’m not saying is necessarily a negative thing; it would be quite scary if sites were censored based on the tastes of the Martha Stewart devotees who populate Pinterest).

More serious than my lament of Reddit’s dumpy content is the controversy of it being downright sexist and a breeding ground for misogyny. With mostly male users, there seems to be somewhat of a groupthink phenomenon where one discriminatory remark is met with another and another until threads simply become hostile spaces toward women where sexist comments go unchecked. This is in contrast to the general trend in social media where communities self-regulate to rebuke and silence trolls who violate common human decency*. However, it seems that in the absence of a diversity of users who have the numbers to stand up for everyone’s rights, these sorts of uncontrollable and ugly situations take place.

While Pinterest isn’t identical to Reddit in that it’s more image-based, users can still hold a dialogue about the images. As the fate of this site unfolds, the question in my mind is whether or not we’ll see the other side of that sexism emerge. Will the 80% female population create a hostile or uncomfortable environment for men or will there be a different outcome of this reverse gender compilation?


*Hmm, no sources coming up for this on GoogleScholar but I know I’ve heard it said many times. I’ve also experienced it personally with the social media projects in which I’ve participated and implemented. If anyone has some research relating to this, please post a comment.

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