Picture – by Tabitha

7 Mar

I’m not really very au fait with stuff on the internet. There would only be about half a dozen sites that I go to regularly. Every now and then I stumble upon new sites that are completely amazing, and the experience leaves me overwhelmed by how many things there are out there in the world that I want to buy, and how many people there are whose lives I’m jealous of, and how many fascinating things are going on that I don’t know anything about, and how many more amazing sites just like this probably exist on the internet.

So I scurry away, afraid, of both myself and of everything out there, and back to the reassuring, comfort of my half-dozen regular sites.

One of those sites is Pinterest, which I only know about because my friend Jo, who is totally down with what the cool kids are doing on the internet, showed it to me. I like Pinterest because you get to look at pictures of pretty things, collected by people whose tastes you share, without suffering the anxiety that comes with trawling the internet finding these things for yourself. I like that it’s not editorialised; that I can simply enjoy a picture of a cake without having to know that it was made by some attractive hipster who lives in Brooklyn and has a better kitchen than me, decorated with vintage Le Creuset cookware.

For example, here is a chair that someone pinned, which I then repinned because I think it’s pretty:

Now, if I were to make the mistake of clicking through to the site where that chair picture comes from, I would have to read this:

“Give Ercol chairs a makeover with a daring fabric. The floral pattern is a nod to a bygone era, while the intensely saturated colours give it a modern twist. Use the same fabric for the cushions, but in a contrasting colourway to complete this Granny-chic look.”

I then I would have to stab both my eyeballs with knitting needles, which could probably be described as a very Granny-chic way to die.

Instead, I’ll let someone else visit that site, find this nice chair, and then wait for them to put it on Pinterest so I can look at it with both my eyeballs fully intact.

But Pinterest is not an entirely anxiety-free experience. The fact that you can outsource the gathering of all these pretty things to other people reiterates just how totally, alarmingly predictable your tastes are. You see laid before your very eyes how you have no unique preferences or ideas about style or beauty or even food, at all. You’re just following trends that have been surreptitiously laid out for you by the trend-making machine.

I know this notion of how fashions come about isn’t novel, but I still find it really astounding. It’s like the trends in baby names: how everyone, simultaneously and en masse, comes up with a great baby name that no-one else is using and then, what do you know, everyone in your child’s kindergarten class is called Isabelle.

I feel that living in Vietnam, and not being an effective user of the internet, I should be well-placed to have preferences and tastes that are outside of, and unaffected by, the signals that feed into the creation of trends. For example, when I was thinking about what flowers to have in my wedding bouquet and on my headpiece thingy, I was drawn to dahlias. If I trace back this idea to its origin, I believe it was prompted by the cycling florists here who sell these enormously tall bunches of ridiculously bright dahlias. When I first saw them, I didn’t even know they were dahlias, and I hadn’t really seen them before except looking scraggly and tied to stakes in some Blue Mountains front gardens.

At the time, Pinterest was telling me that peonies were the flower du jour, and indeed, wedding sites were all peonies peonies peonies. I was concerned, since I was bucking the trend, that I might not even be able to find dahlias in Sydney for the wedding.

Ha dee ha ha ha. You have never seen so many people buying so much of the one type of thing in your life as we saw people buying dahlias the day we shopped for wedding flowers. Dahlia motifs are now on everything, everywhere. On Pinterest I have seen separate tutorials going around for how to make a dahlia out of felt, and out of paper, and out of crepe paper, and how to crochet a dahlia. If I were to subject myself to looking at a wedding website, I am 100 percent certain it would all be dahlias dahlias dahlias.

I’m left with the feeling that I am no more than a predictable, walking cliche, free of all autonomy of thought. But that’s fine, because we all are.

I’d like to finish with a list of current trends that I was already unintentionally adhering to prior to realising they were trends:




Frame clusters


Those are probably dahlias in that vase.


7 Responses to “Picture – by Tabitha”

  1. Beth March 7, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    I have a lot to say about Pinterest. I read the social media news site Mashable and they are forever going on about it: http://mashable.com/follow/topics/pinterest Many info graphics on how hot it is right now. It’s so clever the way it feeds info back into twitter and Facebook.

    If you go to their homepage at the moment there are photos of inspirational quotes, a cardigan which “rocks”, Hawaii and other holiday destinations, a “paleo” muffin, macarons, many pairs of shoes and a copy of the Great Gatsby. It’s like taking the temperature of global (women’s) trends – It’s currently 87% women on there.

    This is also really cool. Not for profits using pinterest to promote their causes: http://mashable.com/2012/02/24/pinterest-non-profits/ and here is a great example: http://pinterest.com/operationsmile/

    When I first went on there I didn’t get the potential. It really is cool that you can have public, or private, virtual scrapbooks on any topic. I’ve seen lots of different types of boards: movies, books, fashion, cleaning ideas, WEDDINGS (there are a lot of wedding boards). I have the physical scrapbooks from my teen years to prove that I love this idea. It helps me keep less (hoarding tendencies) that I know that the internet has everything I could ever want to take a look at or listen to again. If I keep chipping away over years at it I’ll be happy with everything I’ve collected on my boards, but you don’t get an accurate picture of your tastes straight up.

    It’s very very clever. The ladies are LOVING it. Will be interesting to see how it ages and develops. There are some people on there who must spend oodles of time collecting things and re-pinning them. A bit scary. It does send me into a wantwantwant frenzy, so I try to limit my usage.

    Told you I had a lot to say – this is almost a post in its own right. Sorry!

    P.S. Tabs, you should follow this board: http://pinterest.com/postalmuseum/pets-and-the-post-dogs/ (I’m researching how other GLAM-galleries, libraries, archives and museum- peeps are using Pinterest for work).

    • mischa March 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      ah, unconscious trend-following. i know it well. i got a hair cut about a year ago (short at the back, long-ish at the front) and it wasn’t until i stepped out onto the street afterwards that i realised that i looked like every second 25-34 yo woman in the inner northern suburbs of melbourne. i hadn’t realised when i’d suggested the hairstyle to the hairdresser that i was unconsciously mimicking a style i’d observed on people around me who i thought looked cool.
      i am always amused when i hear people of my acquaintance talking about hipsters as if they are other people. hello? don’t you ride a bicycle and have an assymetrical haircut and listen to bands from brooklyn and enjoy knitting and organic gardening? YOU ARE A HIPSTER. yes, you! and for that matter, to the casual observer, so am i. but deep down, i know i’m really just a dork.

      • Tabitha March 9, 2012 at 11:46 am #

        That is so true about hipster-hating! I had to describe what a “hipster” was to a friend here and I was VERY CAREFUL to explain the very nuanced and specific ways in which I was not a hipster.

      • Karen March 10, 2012 at 3:21 am #

        I have to weigh in on the Pinterest thing here.

        I just do not get it. I signed up because so many other people were, and the last time that happened it was Facebook. So I didn’t want to miss the boat on something genuinely worthwhile (which to this day, I still insist Facebook is).

        Pinterest is “very very clever”? Really? It doesn’t have a feature. You can just post images on it. Yes, you can sort them into categories. I don’t think that’s terribly impressive, in this day and age.

        Richard tells me he read an Economist article about how Pinterest is very popular with women. This is one of those things that makes me feel bad about women.

        Obviously I’m missing something. So I’ll persist with it later.

    • Tabitha March 9, 2012 at 11:43 am #

      I remember when I first heard Pinterest described as “scrapbooking” and I blanched, reminded of that awful scrapbooking craft trend. But it really is scrapbooking in the very truest sense. I keep meaning to turn all my recipe bookmarks into pins, so that I can browse them like a real recipe book.

  2. Suzysiu March 15, 2012 at 3:08 am #

    I feel like I’m being difficult, but when were you researching flowers? Was it, perhaps, November? In Australia at least, November is the only time peonies are in season. So perhaps it’s less of a trend, and more about when flowers are in season. They are a popular flower of course. My florist said she recommends peonies to every November bride as they are lucky to have them available (and yes, I took that advice).
    Also trends cycle through so quickly nowadays, and I think this is partly to do with magazines, blogs, and designers needing content. So it’s not hard to see styles you like documented.

  3. Tabitha March 16, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    Thanks for commenting Suzy! I’m sure you’re right about seasonal flowers. I have nothing against peonies by the way (except that I never know how to pronounce them), and certainly didn’t not choose them because they were popular at the time! I must have subconsciously chosen a wedding date that coincided with dahlia season…

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