I thoroughly enjoy Pinterest. It's my own personal art gallery, travel guide, cookbook, cookbook, decor guide, and collection of generally cute stuff. I personally have 18 boards and 3, 471 pins, and I'm probably on there at least every other day. So I clearly enjoy the time spent on Pinterest, but lately, it's been making me think. I've started to develop some qualms with what I am seeing on there that I believe speak to a greater social norm. Apparently 20% of all women who use the internet have Pinterest. That's a pretty significant reach. And as we all know, Pinterest is dominated by women users. Visual.ly states that 83% of users are female. There is one message in particular that I know is being reiterated over and over through Pinterest usage and that is this: you must look good to be happy.
In almost every browsing category, I seem to come across a before-and-after photo with a link to the "best weight loss/fitness/improvement program ever". Occasionally in my newsfeed of people I follow, and often on the Popular page, are photos of mega-fit, scantily clad torsos with sayings that say something to the effect of "You could look like this if you got off your ass for once".
"Shrink a Size in 14 Days This revolutionary, science-backed workout is reader tested and can help you shed up to 12 pounds and 22 inches in just 2 weeks."
"Seven days until a big event? Tells you what to do on each day to look your best. Good tips for anyone who wants to shape up"
This has begun to bother me. I needed to sort out why. Perhaps I am just being defensive and trying to make myself feel better about not working out as much as those torsos do. Maybe it's a deep guilt in my conscious of how I am not treating my body kindly enough and really need to get to the gym more.
It could start as those things, but I really don't think it is. What I'm worried about is the association between happiness and image, and the underlying message that if you do not have the image, then you must be lazy.
Now I know this has always been an issue in our world, but perhaps I've been removed from it for a while. We don't have television, and I don't read fashion magazines, so the bombardment of what I should buy and wear and look like hasn't been on my radar. With using Pinterest so often, though, this has changed. And Pinterest brings all this to a social, relatable level. Rather than models or advertisers trying to reach us, our friends and other normal, every day people Pin things with comments like "New goal" and "I've got to try this" or "Been doing this for weeks!" and it suddenly seems attainable to us too.
What I should be clear about is that I do not think one body image is better than another. Ladies be toned, curvy, thin, tall, fat, short, voluptuous, pear, apple, celery, etc. etc. etc... I have friends who are of all shapes and who participate in cross fit, horseback riding, mountain climbing, weight lifting, yoga, nature walking and marathon running and I respect them all, because these are things that they enjoy and that make them happy.
I truly believe that if our end goal for healthy living is to gain a certain body type and look a certain way, we will never be happy.
Because we will fade. We will change. We will age. We will have babies, or encounter illness, and we will grow old. And from someone who could be considered a chief source, model Cameron Russel, says,
"If you ever are wondering 'if I have thinner thighs and shinier hair, will I be happier?' you just need to sit in a room with a group of models, because they have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes, and they're the most physically insecure women on the planet"
So, it is difficult, but I think we need to fight hard against this idea that "mega-fit=happy" and "not mega-fit=lazy". This is not true. What I believe would be more realistic for us and for other Pinterest users is if we had a pictures of very old women when they were young and presently, and asked them what they did to live this long. What kind of exercise did they do? What did they eat? How often did they work? How much time did they spend with their family and friends? How much stress and worry did they let control their life? What kind of things did they do to make them happy? Or we could study the longest living communities and what they do here. This, I feel, would be the best kind of before-and-after. This would be the best health goal. Because we can be of any shape and any age, and still be healthy. Our bodies will change and we can still be happy.
I want this to be my happiness, health, and beauty goal.