Are Mood Boards In Our Best (P)interest?

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Words: Poppy Galloway (she/her)

Content warning: body image

A friend of mine recently compared his Pinterest account getting blocked to the burning of the Library of Alexandria. While that seems a tad dramatic, it certainly speaks to the important role mood boards play in the curation of people’s digital lives. However, does this enthusiasm to perfect an online image bleed into our real lives and create unattainable goals that hinder self-esteem?

A criticism of moodboards, specifically Pinterest, is that they put too much pressure on us to strive for perfection. I for one avoided posting my own photos on Pinterest, as I don’t think any photos I take meet the high aesthetic standards that I see on the daily. However, comparing the content you consume with your own life implies that the purpose of Pinterest is aspiration, when I think the healthier use of the app is for inspiration. The line between the two is thin and can prove the difference between being a helpful source of ideas vs. toxic positivity.

  Another criticism is that the whole premise of a site dedicated to vision boards is to influence. And where there is the potential to influence, there are influencers, meaning that Pinterest is a hotspot for promoting over consumption. Pinterest’s aim to “sell, sell, sell!” is reinforced by the feature that allows you to ‘‘shop for similar items’’ to those seen in photos. That pipeline from first seeing a piece of clothing, to finding and buying it through ad tracking on Pinterest, is especially deceiving: images on the platform contextualise the fashion and promote a lifestyle unachievable to most. This results in a disconnect between the marketing and our use of the real product, which often ruins self-esteem.

However, you don’t have to become a victim to this trap! One way to subvert this overconsumption on Pinterest is to treat past mood boards as a sort of diary entry: looking back, you can see how your tastes and priorities have evolved over time. By mapping the changes in your personal style, you can also spot consistencies, which help to pinpoint pieces, silhouettes, and styles you know you like, and will stand the test of time. 

  Comment sections are increasingly surpassing original content in importance, as people use the space to discuss, debate, and often condemn. Pinterest, however, mostly promotes the view that a picture is worth 1000 words, thus much of their content goes undiscussed. Whilst some consider this a peaceful respite from the cyber-scraps seen in Twitter comments, it means that problematic content goes largely unchecked. Whereas a photo promoting unhealthy eating habits on Instagram or Twitter would have its comments filled with protest, Pinterest remains silent on these issues. This makes the perpetual romanticisation of unhealthy lifestyles that much easier to achieve, and consequently could endanger more people.

     And there’s the rub with Pinterest: it’s obsession with thinness. I often recreate Pinterest outfits and stare in the mirror baffled as to why I don’t look the same as in the photo, only to remember I’ve forgotten the most important accessories: a thigh gap and washboard abs. As someone with an interest in fashion, the lack of diversity isn’t a new gripe of mine, but where Pinterest really takes the biscuit is its ability to squeeze thinness into being the centre of every photo. Someone cooking dinner…in a crop top and pants. A picture of the book you’re reading in your lap…with your thigh gap in the background. Of course, thin bodies have a place on Pinterest, but a feed showing no alternative can test even the most self-assured.

I may seem holier than thou with my takes on Pinterest, but I speak on behalf of the influenced and afflicted. Why I write so harshly about it is because I believe in its potential. As a social media platform favouring the media element far more than the social, it could serve as a sanctuary from the endless drivel of Twitter comment sections. Instead, it’s stuck in a 2014 Tumblr mindset which isn’t just boring, and sooo 10 years ago, but could also prove really harmful to the next generation of girls who downloaded Pinterest for the same reasons we did: prom inspo, haircut ideas and nail art. So, if you’re able to navigate the various pitfalls and obstacles Pinterest can throw at you, I believe that mood boards can be a visual journal of manifestation and inspiration. They can kick start an idea, give current ideas direction, and help you realise goals, but always with the caveat that nothing in real life looks like it does on Pinterest.


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