Pinterest…you make my head explode.


I love the Internet.  I spend many hours per day using it to search for answers to questions both mundane (those shoes come in my size?) to the profound (how can I improve vaccination rates in my area?).   Because I spend a large portion of each day web surfing, I consider myself adept at the whole process.

Enter Pinterest. My Internet awesomeness just exploded in my face.  What is this place? To best explain my confusion, please see the image confronting me when I first enter Pinterest:

Screenshot 2014-08-02 09.50.58

Information about…well…what exactly? I think its jewelry, home decor, books, shoes. I don’t understand why its there or the theory behind the organization. I’m just sort of smacked with a bunch on unrelated pictures, most of which hold no interest for me.  Is this Pinterest’s assumption of what interests me?

I tried another tactic.  Instead of letting Pinterest try to tell me what I might like, I used the search function.  Because this is a public health course, I naturally tried to seek out health related information, and because my passion lies in vaccination, I naturally searched for “vaccines.”

Oh brother.  See below:

Screenshot 2014-08-02 10.13.43

In case, it is unclear…every single one of the “pins” in this screenshot (full disclaimer, it is only the top half of the page) is “anti-vaccine.”  Why I choose not to vaccinate. Vaccine failures.  Vaccine conspiracy theories. Wow.  This is not exactly an advertisement for Pinterest’s ability to present accurate public health information.

This was a disheartening first foray into using Pinterest as a public health tool.  But that’s an important thing to realize: Pinterest is open to anyone and anyone can create their own boards based on their opinions and likes.  That there happen, apparently, to be a lot of anti-vaccine types using Pinterest is not the fault of the site. People pin what they want to share with others.

That is sort of the beauty of Pinterest right there.  You create the board you want. Like-minded folk may follow you and you can begin sharing important (accurate) information with each other. So while Pinterest fails as a general public health search tool (vaccines are not a conspiracy between the FDA, the CIA, and pharmaceutical companies). It can be useful to quickly locate news articles, fact sheets, and other information for use in other formats.

With a little more in-depth looking, I was able to find a board chockfull of really interesting and accurate information on vaccines and vaccine-related news:

Screenshot 2014-08-02 10.34.32

I’ve pinned several of these to my own board on vaccines.  I can later return to my board and peruse each pinned article in more detail when I have the time.  Having my own board full of links to helpful vaccine advocacy sites? Now that is helpful.

My final assessment of Pinterest.  Use with caution. Create your own board where you can store accurate information for use in other, slightly more user-friendly formats.


5 thoughts on “Pinterest…you make my head explode.

  1. Wow! Your first photo shows exactly how I’ve felt the last four weeks. The rest of the post is an excellent example of how the first amendment can cause as much harm as good. Reader beware.

  2. Hmmm, based on what you said, it appears that Pinterest is a Supermarket for low information voters. Yes, you are correct in saying it is not Pinterest’ fault. This relates to the points made in Shirky et al that Meetup did not do research on what its customers wanted, it simply provided a medium for people to meetup. Pinterest provides a platform for people to pinup. It just so happens that the vaccine portion of pinterest is not a well informed crowd. Oh well.

  3. Amanda,
    I agree that pinterest has a lot of information posted by people which is pinned by other ursers if they are interested and there is no check and balance on the validity of the information. So one has to do their own research to make sure the information is scientifically correct and was published in a journal. I personally use pinterest for make up or outfit ideas, quick and easy recipes etc. As Morris said, I would look into scientific journals for more information about vaccines.

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one who is completely confused by Pinterest! Many of my friends (and even my mom) seem to use it without issues. I find it’s structure confusing, disorganized and disorienting. It just seems like a bunch of random DIY pictures. I don’t get it, but your post made me feel like if I decided to play around with it enough someday maybe it’ll make sense. Amazing that you could find information about vaccines on there…I never would have thought!

  5. I definitely shared your confusion about Pinterest! I have several friends whose only source of recipes is Pinterest, and I kept asking them HOW? Because it was just too confusing for me. Now I feel like I have a better handle on searching and following, and can finally make some sense of what’s going on there. You really hit the nail on the head with the observation that anyone can put whatever they want on Pinterest. As Shirky says, we are in a world of publish-then-filter. So your selection of fact-based vaccination items to pin on your board is a great example of filtering! Will you link to your Pinterest page from your blog, do you think?

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