Painting your Internal World

Therapists often run into a curious problem during treatment: Clients aren’t very good at describing their emotions. How exactly do you express the nature of your depression? So this spring, relationship counselor Crystal Rice hit upon a clever idea. She had her clients use Pinterest, the popular picture-pinning social network, to create arrays of images that map out their feelings. It’s a brilliant epiphany: While emotions can be devilishly difficult to convey in words, they’re often very accessible via pictures. “This way we can really identify what’s going on,” Rice says.

As Rice discovered with her clients, Pinterest’s appeal is that it gives us curiously powerful visual ways to communicate, think, and remember. If you see one picture of a guitar, it’s just a guitar; but when you see 80 of them lined up you start to see guitarness. This additive power is precisely what helps Rice’s clients paint their internal worlds.

Part of the value of Pinterest is that it brings you out of yourself and into the world of things. As the Huffington Post writer Bianca Bosker argued, Facebook and Twitter are inwardly focused (“Look at me!”) while Pinterest is outwardly focused (“Look at this!”). It’s the world as seen through not your eyes but your imagination.

Granted, Pinterest encourages plenty of dubious behavior too. It can be grindingly materialistic; all those pins of stuff to buy! Marketers are predictably adrool, and as they swarm aboard, the whole service might very well end up collapsing into a heap of product shilling.

But I suspect we’ll see increasingly odd and clever ways of using Pinterest. If a picture is worth a thousand words, those collections are worth millions.

Clive Thompson, Wired Magazine