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:
Those are probably dahlias in that vase.