“Super Mom in a Box”

This is where we’ll talk about the essay “Super Mom in a Box.” Sorry I’m a little later on this than I’d prefer, but it has been one of those “one thing after another” series of days.

The next few articles we’ll be reading/discussing (actually, it’s the last bits of reading for the class) are more of an academic bent– though I still think accessible– and specifically about various uses of social media. The idea here is to read and think about some of the scholarship that is out there about how social media works so you can start thinking about it for your end of the semester reflective projects.

This particular essay is about the writer’s (Lindsey Harding) complex relationship with Pinterest and her own identity as a woman and a mother. I know a couple of you are following Pinterest as one of your social medias this semester, but I don’t think you have to know a lot about Pinterest to get the hang of this piece.

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29 Responses to “Super Mom in a Box”

  1. Scott says:

    Harding’s autoethnography of her experience with Pinterest has many depths to it. She discusses how the social network site can influence a person’s mental state and outlook on reality. There seems to be an element of obsession Pinterest had for her. She wanted to be the best mother and wife and she found that Pinterest helped. Harding writes, “Pinterest blends the delight of immersive discovery and exploration with a strong sense of agency. This is the source of the site’s power, its ability to satisfy users in a way that feels very, very real.” She draws a firm distinction between online domestic motherly ideas Pinterest allows her to bring to her family life, but also how building up too many ideas is not conducive to the restrictions (money, time, energy) of real life.

    My initial experience with Pinterest led me to believe that it was geared mainly toward mothers, girlfriends pinning their hopeful wedding ring, fiances looking for date night recipes. I’m not sure if this was the Pinterest creator’s intention, but there is an overtly postfeminist sense to the site. I have used it for things that concern this class: articles on rhetoric, website design, coding for HTML and CSS, etc. I wonder if Pinterest evolved from a domestic perspective when it first began.

    • jmoss9 says:

      I am always a little peeved the notion that Pinterest is for women. You may be right, maybe it did begin that way but it certainly has many manly threads now. I once had grand plans to build a lot of furniture out of old pallets like I’ve seen on Pinterest and I have done some art projects with old license plates and Pinterest gave me more ideas along those lines than I will ever be able to accomplish. How ever it started, Pinterest is simply not just for women any longer.

      • rachel says:

        Pinterest is probably thought of as more woman dominated due to the most popular/trendy DIYs and crafts falling into the realm of things that people typically associate with women or see it as feminine.

        There are certain dominant trends that Pinterest has for a few young women that I knew a few years ago, and that is that quite a few saw Pinterest as a way to pin all of their wedding ideas once they were close to engagement or already engaged. It was something they did for themselves, but also something they did to subtly-not-so-subtly show others in their circle (who “follow” them on Pinterest) what is going on in their life based on what they “pin.”

        • jmoss9 says:

          I enjoy perusing Pinterest and have visited the site many times but I have never created a board or even followed anyone (at least I don’t think I have). But your explanation about the wedding/engagement pins just made it clear to me why it is considered a social media site. I never gave that aspect much thought.

  2. Joan Kwaske says:

    This article was really interesting. I’m using Pinterest for one of my social medias, and my roommate- who I roomed with last year as well- told me the first time we met that Pinterest is her obsession. While reading this, I thought a bit about how I could relate to the author, but mostly how similar she seems to my roommate.
    Currently, I only have 4 Pinterest boards: Psychology, Student Life, Literature, and Clothing. 34 boards seems insane. The moment I read this, I immediately understood that the author was actually in rather deep. I do think she made an excellent case for it though. Not only is Pinterest incredibly immersing because the content appears to be limitless, but it promotes the picturesque life that isn’t achievable, especially for women and mothers who craft.
    While I’ve certainly noticed how enchanting the idea pins can be and how easy it is to keep scrolling and think, “Wow! That’s so cute and it looks so easy!”, I’ve found that it’s rarely is as simple as it seems. Michelle, my roommate, is constantly finding decorating ideas and having me help to execute them. Nothing we have ever made has looked remotely close to the “Finished Product” photos. As a result, I don’t put much faith into those “easy crafts”. Clearly, the author had to learn this lesson the hard way. She was in far, far over her head with the birthday party. I think that her example shows the disconnect between the Pinterest identity and stark reality.
    Pinterest, as we’ve discussed with Facebook, promotes a false sense of control and appearance. By the end of this reading, two quotes really struck me: “If lived moments are not pinnable, what are they worth? What do they mean?” and “But these delights, this fantasy, come with costs. I can see that now.” As it relates to the mothers of Pinterest, this tastes strange. I think that mothers who are perpetually attempting to pull off their favorite pins often become so obsessed with replicating the ideas that they almost forget the purpose. Children don’t care how their parties look as long as the cake is bathed in frosting- a concept that the author touched on when the Candy Land party. At that point, it seems like the planning is less about the child, and more about proving yourself as a parent.
    Overall, I think this article had a lot of great points, and her explanations are extremely thoughtful.

    • Steve Krause says:

      I like the connection to Facebook, Joan. And there is this interesting observation here about how people do things for the memory of them rather than the experience itself. I think that’s always been the case– I know I’ve been on trips or vacations or whatever where the memory of the experience seems almost as important (or more so) than the experience itself.

  3. jmoss9 says:

    It is easy to understand how someone could become so enthralled with Pinterest since it has so many threads and so many interesting projects. I know whenever I start looking through people’s pins I always get ideas for all kinds of stuff I plan to do “someday.” It would certainly be easy to find more projects than anyone could complete in a decade.

    Harding’s description of her daily use of Pinterest sounded a lot like an internet addiction to me. While I don’t know how common Pinterest addictions are (I’m sure there’s lots), I know lots of people that were addicted to other stuff online. World of Warcraft, chat rooms, Facebook, Candy Crush, Madden, Call of Duty. There was a time in my life that I realized I was spending way too much time playing games and feeling like I was achieving real world goals when in actuality I was being a slug. I understand Harding’s feeling that she was actually accomplishing something by going on Pinterest and organizing her boards and feeling like she was keeping her home and her life in order.

    • Scott says:

      I agree that Harding seemed addicted to Pinterest at one point. Especially so because she examined and analyzed her use in a rhetorical way and ended up kicking the habit all together. I think it’s important for all people who use the internet to know that you can get sucked into the plethora of online activities. That awareness can allow users to be skeptical of their reasons for pursuing these interests. Do they affording useful or unfavorable behavior?

  4. Debra says:

    I appreciated Harding’s honesty about her experience with Pinterest and how she really delved into the psychology that comes into play. The quote that jumped out at me was by Sherry Turkle: “When part of your life is lived in virtual places … a vexed relationship develops between what is true, and what is ‘true here.'”

    I am also trying out Pinterest this semester. I have two boards, Healthy Eating and Yoga. So far my pins have captured my attention but have not led to even a single yoga pose attempted. Luckily, I haven’t fooled myself into thinking I am living a healthier life because of Pinterest, but I could see how someone could feel a sense of accomplishment just from collecting ideas and projects through Pinterest. The pins are inspirational, but if I don’t take action on them they haven’t become a “true” part of my world.

    • Scott says:

      I’ve done the same a bit on Pinterest. I haven’t read some of the articles that I have pinned to my board. Rather, some pins stay as a reminder to read eventually, an archive to look back on.

    • Joan Kwaske says:

      The quote you mentioned stood out to me as well. It ties in perfectly to the majority of articles we’ve read about social media and essentially having two lives: one online, one offline.
      As for what you said about using Pinterest, I have to admit the same thing. None of the clothing I’ve pinned is ever going to end up in my closet. Given that I’m not an online shopper, I’m not even sure why I made a board for it. I do enjoy the ideas/projects, especially for making space in my dorm room. I have actually applied those to real life, but that’s only a couple of pins compared to quite a few that I have on my boards.
      I think the important thing to remember with Pinterest is that it’s merely an idea place. It’s nice to look at for a while to gather ideas, it just isn’t a place to stay for too long.

  5. aderengo says:

    I enjoyed reading the essay. I am using Pinterest as one of my social media sites. I can spend hours on there at a time. Its endless the things that you can look up and find. Practically everything you can think of is on there.

    I have created many different types of boards from food, gift ideas, gardening, clothes, marketing ideas, websites, and quite a few more. It’s nice finding out new quick ideas for dinners, or what to feed different plants based on where you live. Grant it, some of the information on Pinterest you can Google, but I think it’s the way the information is presented why people are attracted to Pinterest.

    I thought it was interesting how she thought she was a better mom, because she was using Pinterest. While I have only used five of my pins in my actual life, the rest are just ideas or something I thought was cute. She definitely pointed out that there is a psychological part of Pinterest that I hadn’t even thought about, and how just pinning something can make us think that we are better because we saved the idea.

  6. ReneeG says:

    I found this article to be interesting. I am using Pinterest for the social media project. When I first downloaded it, I did not like it at all. While I still don’t really like it too much, I’ve grown used to it. I’m kind of comfortable with navigating it now, but I still don’t find it to be that interesting.

    Based on the reading, I feel like Lindsey may be slightly addicted to Pinterest. There is a fine line between checking social media everyday and feeling like social media makes you a better person (or mom in this author’s case).

  7. LouiseWrites says:

    Although I understand the point of the reading and how the virtual world can take over or act as a substitution for the real world, it was painful for me to read through this post. The idea that not having the perfect party for your 6 year old filled with just the right amount of sprinkle decorations is probably among the least important problems in the world. Also, I don’t believe that the idea of saving ideas for later on Pinterest is a new one or should be treated as such a phenomenon. Whenever there are pattern sales at my workplace I stock up and buy about 5 at a time, as well as yards of fabric for projects that keep piling up while my sewing machine sits in dust. The only difference with the creation of Pinterest is that there is this additional stress of being the public image that your crafty Pinterest persona claims to be. Thankfully there is no one to walk into my house and see all of my unfinished work and creative activities that have yet to see the light of day. I will state, however, that I am heavily biased towards Pinterest (in short terms, I hate it) and so I may not be able to see how people spend hours perusing this site.

  8. Jaclyn Y says:

    I use Pinterest all the time, and I have seen lots of mommy blogs on the site. This was an interesting look into a creator of a mommy blog. Most of the time, I just ignore the parenting stuff because I don’t have kids, nor do I want kids. But I can kind of relate to the addiction of being online.

    You’re not you when you’re online. You can be anyone. I think that is part of the addiction. On Tumblr, Twitter, or Pinterest, I’m not the awkward woman that a person would come across in my day-to-day life. I feel cool, beautiful, and sometimes smart. The author said that she thought Pinterest made her a better mom because on Pinterest she was the perfect mom.

    • totallykyle94 says:

      The thing you mention of “you’re not you when you’re online. You can be anyone.” stands out to me because it is incredibly true. The various online identities that we create for ourselves serve as some sort of escape in a way, and I see this as being neither positive or negative, it’s just an aspect of online culture. It is very easy to become wrapped up in these identities though.

  9. andrew says:

    I have never used Pinterest before, though my wife does use it a lot. I have never felt it was more geared toward women but that is likely because I have never used it before. I know that my wife uses it for all sorts of reasons–crafts ideas, wedding ideas, art interests. The only time she shows me stuff is when she thinks I will be interested in the art she pins. I think for this reason I associate it with collections of visual things. I am sometimes tempted to create my own board with fan art and the like. I don’t because I tend to reject the idea of having too many social media accounts. Side note: I do this more because I know I can’t keep up and will end up being disappointed with the persona I display.

    Actually that is probably not a side note. The frustration that comes with maintaining the image we create online is for me the crux of this article. There is no doubt that I carefully craft an identity online. Everything I post is all me for sure, but it is the best of me. I get annoyed with people who air dirty laundry on Facebook and kind of think they are immature. This is unfair. They are probably more honest. I have plenty of dirty laundry.

    But I don’t bring dirty laundry to school either. I don’t bring it to work. Are the identities we share on social media really different than the ones we share in any public interaction?

    • Scott says:

      Well I think you make an interesting point because I think for some people, like you, identity in reality and identity online are the same. But for others an online identity can be exhilarating or enticing because you are able to share similar interests with others who may live half way across the world. Both I think are looking for authenticity in their life, they may just get it in different ways. And sometimes like Harding experience shows, they realize they don’t want that online persona anymore.

  10. rachel says:

    Thinking back to the point where she says Pinterest had become “the illusion of maternal productivity,” it makes me think of a time when I used to keep dozens of post-it notes on my desk to keep track of what I needed to do and what I had done so far…but really what ended up happening was I would accumulate more post-it notes than things I accomplished, and then I would add simple things to my post-it list that I could “cross off,” and feel like I was accomplishing more than I was.

    The difference between my post-it notes and Lindsey Harding’s Pinterest account was that her Pinterest didn’t only make her feel like she was being more productive when she wasn’t, but also allowed her to maintain a persona with others online that she was a “productive mother.”

    • swilso93 says:

      Totally agree with this. When you share all these posts it gives people the idea that you are doing such awesome things in real life. I see people share posts on Facebook of food and they say, “I am so going to make this!” I ask them later if they did and they said they didn’t get to it.

    • Marianne says:

      It is so sad that she thought she had to put forth the idea that she was a productive mother. Who cares what anyone thought? The PTA ladies? The people from church? My gosh, she worked full-time, had kids, had a house to take care of — who would think she wasn’t productive? And who cares if they did? And frankly, sitting in the evenings and browsing through Pinterest sounds like the only relaxation she ever got. She needs to give herself a break and rearrange her priorities to what really matters. Sorry, I had to rant.

  11. totallykyle94 says:

    I really enjoyed reading this piece because Lindsey Harding herself had been so immersed in Pinterest, and although she only discussed her experiences with this website, it made me reflect on the various internet communities/cultures that I am engaged in. The part about her daughter’s party not living up to the Pinterest version of it stood out to me because this seems to be a recurring scenario with these digital lives that we create for ourselves. “Moments of more may leave us with lives of less”. This quote also stuck out to me. I have gone through periods of time where I got wrapped up in something I was engaging in online, and in turn, life outside of this seemed less fulfilling. This seems to be what happened in Harding’s case, and I am sure many of us can relate to this sentiment.

    • Marianne says:

      That was such a great statement: “Moments of more may leave us with lives of less.” That is really what she is doing when she is trying to “have it all and do it all” and it just doesn’t work. It is too easy to get caught up in this internet thing and I can totally relate to what she was saying, just not with Pinterest.

  12. swilso93 says:

    This was really interesting! I used to use Pinterest a lot. I recently stopped as much. My first reason was that I just didn’t have that many friends on Pinterest. So it bored me. But another was that I kept finding myself posting and sharing all these recipes and such; but never did anything with it. But even then, I still share that stuff on Facebook and I don’t ever do it so I guess my reasoning seems silly now. I enjoyed finding all these things and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m gonna do all these awesome things!” And I never did. Facebook may have these as well; but it’s not the only thing so for me I still enjoy Facebook. Now, I do still have the Pinterest app on my phone but I never really use it except when there is something I want to search for specifically. I have many boards on Pinterest but not as many as the author of this article mentioned. How she kept up with all of them is crazy to me.

  13. MattZ says:

    It was interesting to see how Harding explained how social media could change how someone saw the world or themselves. I’ve never been one for Pinterest, but it was cool to see it from the angle of a power user, so to speak.

    I could definitely see some of the things she was talking about with Pinterest applying to me and the social media networks that I regularly use. Everyone tries to be themselves online but usually end up creating some sort of persona of who they want everyone to think they are. Also, I know the feeling of attempting to be productive when social media is involved, it’s never good. Anonymity turns most people into jerks. Without the possible repercussions that people would face in real life it can lead them to be terrible people online. I’m not saying that this is a problem for everyone, but I’ve known a few people who turn into monsters when behind a computer screen.

  14. Marianne says:

    It was interesting to read this article because I have been a Pinterest user for several years and have had a completely different experience than the author did. To be fair, my kids were grown when P came into being, but even so, I never thought about it as trying to convince me to be a certain way and I have never even considered that other people could even see me do anything on there. I know they can and I see them, but I have never felt pressure over it. I also don’t really feel like it is a very social social media; I feel like it is more like my digital filing cabinet of “someday” ideas. It doesn’t take up room in my house and I don’t spend any time shuffling paper. What could be better?
    It was kind of sad reading this article because she reminded me of when my kids were little. I was so busy working full-time and trying to be supermom and super-wife and super-employee, thinking I should be able to do it all and wondering why I was so tired and had such a hard time doing all I thought I should be doing — It took many years to learn that my unrealistic expectations were the stressor and that I needed to change my outlook to change my life.
    Since this semester started I have started a Pinterest board for the B&B that I am doing social media for, and I have created Ann Arbor Visitor Guides that I have posted on the board for her. I set up several boards, like places to eat in Ann Arbor and things to see and do in Ann Arbor, one that is just U of M, and some for things within walking distance of the downtown inn.
    I believe it is just another method of connecting with her guests or possible guests, providing a service that takes little effort or time and provides good will for her business. I’ve been following many of the businesses that are within walking distance of the inn and also many U of M departments, basically anybody who may have a friend or relative come to town and want a place to stay downtown.
    It is kinda embarassing to say but I have over 12,000 pins and over 40 boards, but I hardly spend any time on Pinterest since I started school here a few years ago. Before that, I would browse through the listings while relaxing or I would search for items that I was interested in. When I was planning decorations and party favors for my daughter’s wedding shower, I looked at it quite a bit, but I will probably never look at the pins in that board again. No pressure.
    That is what is so great about it. I don’t think I have pinned any of my own stuff on Pinterest, although I have thought about it. I have used many of the ideas to do some project or another or to find directions how to do something, but I just don’t feel any urgency about sharing mine. I think it would be nice sometime maybe, but that’s as far as I’ve gone.
    I have boards for different types of crafting that interest me, including one just for Dremel Tool ideas. I have boards for things like gardening, business, gluten free recipes, inspirational quotes, and a board I created just for friends coming to Michigan for the first time that is completely things to see and do in Michigan. I invited them to follow the board so they could see what they would like to do when they came. How cool is that?
    I can honestly say that I have way more pins than I will ever look at but I think that is kind of the beauty of it. I can forget all about them and if I have time or the inclination, I can search for my pins in a certain board or I can browse the suggested pins to pin some more that I may or may not look at.

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