If I Use Pinterest, Am I “Unmanly?”

A photo I found on Pinterest (originally from Kottke.org)

It seems to me that the world of Pinterest is overwhelmingly inhabited by women.  After futzing around with Pinterest this morning, re-pinning stuff I found intriguing (Yeah, like this photo of a gun being fired underwater.  Can you see the veins in my neck bulge as I lift my Harley over my head?), I wondered…for the umpteenth time…are there really as few men using it as it appears to me?

And I wondered whether people who see that I pin to Pinterest think, because I am swimming in a pool full of women, I am effeminate or, god forbid, gay.  Actually, I don’t care whether  people think that, but I wondered, nonetheless.  So I thought I’d explore it a bit.

Depending on where you look for the information, anywhere between 58% and 97% of Pinterest users are women.  Based on my own limited experience, I’d say the 97% figure is closer to the truth.  But why? One of the articles I read suggests the design of the site itself is more appealing to women.  According to that article, most social media sites are designed by, and to appeal to, men,  But on Pinterest, it says, the colors, the emphasis on graphics and the heavy use of photos are, according to that piece, geared toward women users.  Another consideration I read somewhere seems to acknowledge that design might have been responsible for a higher number of women than men jumping on board initially, but reckoned the disparate growth rate leading to the current mega-majority for women was caused by exponential growth of “pins.”  If the number of pages pinned grows exponentially, then it would stand to reason that a small head start in initial numbers oif women would quickly grow to massive lopsidedness in favor of women.  Assuming, of course, men and women have different interests.  More on that later.

The NPR piece cited above led me to this board and this this one designed explicitly to appeal to men.  Clearly, there are a few boards designed to appeal to the manly-man.   But I still wonder…why aren’t men using the service more? While the rate of growth in, and the larger proportion of, women users might be explained by mathematics, the apparent paucity in absolute numbers of men just doesn’t seem to have a simple connection to math.  It must be something else.

It could be, in spite of the man-directed boards on the site, that there just is not yet sufficient male-focused content yet.   But the site’s “content” is essentially created by users.  Granted, the larger the proportion of women, the larger the proportion of content that might be of interest primarily to women might help explain small numbers of male users.   (This argument makes some sexist assumptions of male-female interests, I know, but you have to admit the sexes do have different interests…arguments about their different interests would have real legitimacy only regarding the causes of those disparate interests.)

When I first subscribed to Pinterest, I didn’t just pin images and page-links that someone else had already pinned, I used the service as a place to “store” links to specific places on the internet that were of interest to me.  For example (he growls and flexes his biceps), I created a board on “welding how-to.”   I created another one (he stands, hammer in hand, and glares menacingly at the box of nails) on DIY Resources.  The fact that you can and do create your own content, in addition to swiping content from others, mutes the “there’s only content for women” argument.  The fact that there plenty of content areas which are of real interest to both women and men (even men who are NOT effeminate) dulls the argument, as well.

So, still, I wonder what is it that explains why so few men, in absolute numbers, use Pinterest?  Before I answer, let me say I understand there are plenty of BOTH women and men who absolutely do not and will not have any interest in Pinterest. To them, the concept of using an online pictorial file cabinet for items of interest simply has no appeal.  But, STILL, I wonder…do men in general simply not find the concept of having such an online service of interest?

My explanation is admittedly conjecture, purely a guess based on my admittedly modest, perhaps miniscule, knowledge of the motives of people who choose to join Pinterest and those who choose not to join. But here goes, anyway:

I think many, many men may not make use of Pinterest because they DO think it’s effeminate and they DO care that others might think them less manly for participating. I’m talking here about the men who do make ample use of other social media, not about the guys who steer clear of social media altogether (except for the guys who think social media is just a girlie thing).

If I’m right about their motives for staying away, let me just say to them: I wish you’d grow out of this teenage insecurity.  Seriously, I wish there were more men posting on Pinterest because that would just improve its utility for everyone.  The greater the number of people sharing information, the more valuable the service.

If, on the other hand, I’m wrong…if the relative paucity of males using the service has nothing to do with insecurity and fear of what others might think, then I’d STILL like to know why men are not using it in greater numbers.

If my assumption that men who don’t participate in Pinterest  worry that people will consider them effeminate is wrong, then all I can say, to paraphrase Gilda Radner’s SNL character, Emily Litella, is “Nevermind.”

 

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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