Monday, November 28, 2022

Break-ups & Weddings: Taking A Walk Back In Time Through My Past Pinterest Selves

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Emma Clifton visits the various past versions of herself that all still exist on her Pinterest Secret Board page.

You know, the Instagram algorithm gets a lot of hate – and quite rightly – but in terms of algorithms that come from a place of pure chaos, I would argue the Pinterest one is right up there.

As a millennial, I was bloody primed to be a Pinterest person when it first came out, because I grew up reading magazines, making vision boards and always looking at other people’s curated versions of ‘what is cool’. Pinterest combined all of these visual loves, and also gave me the ability to create boards based on whatever (inane) whim I was experiencing at the time.

It was only when I was recently about to experience a Pinterest-informed experience (get a cut and colour) that I went back into my Pinterest, got inspiration from my hair board (‘Hair’) and then took a little look around my past interests/passions/trends and thought:

What was going on here?

Based on my most long-ago Pin, I started my Pinterest Board a decade ago with a travel-related board (‘Favourite places and things!’) and slowly descended into visual madness with a whole sprog of nonsensical boards.

The beauty of Pinterest is that there is little context to the boards you create. Why did I need a “Hoops & Top-knots” board in 2018? Who knows. Was it another viewing of Practical Magic that inspired the “Witchy” board? Probably. What was so special about “Summer 2017” that it needed to be captured so? Why did no other summer get a board?

But the absolute best and worst of times – according to Pinterest – was 2018, when I went from planning a wedding to getting dumped, and the algorithm caught me directly between those two words. Luckily, I ‘Everything is copy’-d my way to screen-grabbing the truly bonkers blend it gave me, where you can practically sense the panic coming off the home page.


A grim snapshot of 2018

Note the way ‘How To Be Happy When You’re Single Again’ hovers seamlessly above the ‘Boho Weddings & Life’ wedding cake, before moving into the ‘How to start a spiritual practice’ ethereal picture. It was only by sighing and crying my way around the ‘hide pin’ button (plus obviously deleting my secret wedding boards) that I managed to move the algorithm on to where it needed to be: serving me photos of Nigella Lawson and inspirational quotes about starting again.

But now, part of me wishes I had kept those old wedding boards, because I have so few mementos of my past selves. When I was growing up, there were scrapbooks and diaries and boxes filled with favourite photos, endless details of who I was then and what I was aiming for. Now, too much of this only exists on our phones and when we get a new one, we lose the most priceless part of our memories (the ‘screenshot’ folder, of course). And with that, we lose the versions of ourselves that we have moved through to get there.

When I look at the various secret boards I have created over the years, they are at times painfully vulnerable and laugh-out-loud embarrassing (and a white woman bingo of Nora Ephron, Bali and Elizabeth Gilbert). They remind me of being sad, but being hopeful. They make me extra appreciative for what I have now, and also the fact that I never took action on any of the tattoos from the tattoo board (‘Tattoos & words’) that I had once carefully put together. Without this online treasure trove to store my most wounded heart into, there is a high chance I would now be walking around with lines from Fleetwood Mac tattooed on my inner arm. And we can all be grateful that that didn’t happen.

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