I’d Be a Hungry Used Car Salesman

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I’m about to say something that’s bound to tick someone off.
But let’s talk about the sanctity of my friend Pinterest.

I am not a seller. Never have been.

A long time ago, in a far off land when Michael Jackson was black, Van Halen jumped, and I was a Brownie scout, I sent my cookie order form with my mom to work, then cast googoo eyes at my uncle, who liking cookies and having no daughters of his own, bought enough to earn him Uncle of the Decade. That year I got sales girl of the year. For that my family clogged their arteries with a ridiculous amount of Caramel Delights, giving them health issues that probably just showed up on a cholesterol test in about 2010, and I got a Girl Scout necklace. “Hey, fellow third graders, you seeing my Samoa swag? You and your Thin Mints better recognize.”

In retrospect, there are worse jobs than being a cookie pusher.
So we’ve established that I’m just not inclined to be a seller, so hear me with that big fault in mind.
In the best of situations, this is not my gift.

But I’m saddened over the sales-taking-over of Pinterest.
For those of you who haven’t caught the Fever of Pinterest, this is an online bulletin board, where you “pin” items you like on your boards, which you put in categories. For example, I might have categories like decorating, art, clothes, hair, book covers, recipes. And on my decorating board, you might find pictures of lamps and light fixtures I’ve found online or taken from my light-fixture-obsessed-taking camera. You  might find pictures of someone’s living room. (A decorated living room. Not like a picture of my boss’s living room taken from the outside shrubs at 3:31 a.m.) Each “board” is like an idea board. Very, very clever concept. And if you want, people can follow you, see your ideas, repin them on their boards. You find things on the homepage or the boards of others, pin items on your space. It’s a big community of “Hey, I found this cool idea/picture/hairdo/recipe/paint color/scarf-tying method and I’d like to save it and share.”

Today I read an article on how authors can use Pinterest to sell books and lure in readers.
And the predatory tone pretty much broke my heart.

Then there’s THIS article on how tech brands can jump on it. The article describes why it’s not quite mecca for tech products yet, reasons like they have to bend to Pinterest’s format, as Pinterest won’t adapt to theirs. And how Pinterest is primarily made up of women and men mostly don’t get the draw. I think a lot of people aren’t “getting” it.

I’ve seen Pinterest become distilled this year by people with an odd need to be heard in a forum where it doesn’t belong–the pro-lifers with no filter (Move over wedding pictures, here’s a picture of a fetus with a genetic disease!), skinny girls (the original 1%) who attack the overweight with photos of those dying to be thin (Your Chicago-style pizza recipe you just posted will never satisfy you like 400 squat lunges and no body fat!), the breast feeding-as-art camp (This is video footage of my boob… if it were directed by Quintin Tarantino), and so on. That bothered me. I once contacted Pinterest about a teen girl who was posting pics of her cutting escapades. She didn’t need Pinterest. She needed intense therapy and a hug.

Over the last few months, I have seen Twitter announcements of musicians and bands announcing their Pinterest pages for us to follow. Really? Because Keith Urban also likes shabby-chic and new recipes of cheesy chicken enchiladas? Because Lady Antebellum, you wanted to share your latest project using chalkboard paint?

I totally understand an author, musician, or any self-employed person feeling the intense pressure to get the word out in any way possible. On the same day I read the Pinterest articles, I read a blog from an author giving very real numbers and facts about his income, restating again that this is not a business that you can count on to make a living salary. I get that. Maybe less since I’ve always kept the day job (the thrill of writing detention slips is too grand to give up…), but mostly I think I feel it less because I choose not to. I don’t want to be the person who ruins the party. I don’t want to be the person you metaphorically ignore when I ring the doorbell.

Just because an avenue of communication is available, doesn’t mean we should take it. I don’t want the publishing, art, music communities to get to the point we’re handing out our cards at funerals and pasting our book covers on the back of wheel chairs. We need to respect the ones who were there before us and the central purpose of the outlet that was created. If I post a book cover on Pinterest, it’s because it goes on my “favorite book” board or because I like the cover. It’s not there because “I’m trying to sell you something.” I’ve got outlets for that.

These are desperate, crazy times for the publishing community. Every article I read is overwhelming and scary.  (Get out of traditional publishing! Change your name and reinvent yourself! It’s Us vs. Them! Deceptive contracts! Improperly reported e-sales! You’d make more selling yourself as a mail-order bride!)  But that doesn’t mean we have to act desperate and crazy.
I don’t want book sales achieved because I made myself look bad, made someone uncomfortable, or intruded where it was not appropriate.
It’s about integrity.
And it’s about the fact that I’m still looking for a recipe for twice-baked potato soup that doesn’t use potatoes I have to actually cut.
And I can’t do that if I have to wade through a homepage of self-promotion.

This time next year I will probably be singing a different tune, but this is where I am right now, as I read more and more of folks going on Pinterest not with a true interest, but with a strategy.
God knows we all gave in on Facebook, which for a handful of happy years was just where you went to find your eighth grade best friend or that guy you sat behind in college biology. So as Pinterest changes, maybe my opinion will too.
But for right now, for me, I’m staying true to the original intent of Pinterest.
I think the site is a genius idea. And I don’t want to be part of the movement that forever alters what it does best.

I was never a good cookie salesgirl.
I’m not a good book salesgirl.
But I know where to go to pull photos when it’s time to paint my kitchen.
And I know where to look when I need a suggestion for a good book.
And only one of those is Pinterest.

At least for now. : )