Saturday, September 26, 2015

Friends Who Know You Better than Pinterest

When you find friends who know you better than Pinterest, hold onto them. Friends like this are precious and hard to find.

I don't mean that sarcastically. I'm serious. Because there's a way that Pinterest knows you, in a way that other websites and apps don't. And yes, I know that it doesn't really know you, it's just an algorithm and word associations and all that, but it got me thinking how good friends know and accept each other.

So, my awesome friend got me hooked on Pinterest, and it has been great so far! I always thought that Pinterest was mainly for recipes and crafts, but I have found all sorts of fascinating things there. I've found tons of writing tips, including lists of words. I have my own list of words for "said" that I put together years ago, but I've found some that I didn't include. There was one pin written by a hunter who spends a lot of time in the woods and also reads a lot - it was a list of things that most authors get wrong about the woods - like for instance, that's almost impossible to run fast through the woods - and recommendations for how a person could realistically capture someone who ran off into the woods, or avoid being captured by someone who chased them into the woods. It was such interesting advice that you just wouldn't find by google searching for writing tips.

Then there's all the psychology stuff. I've found tons of interesting articles about personality psychology. I finally understand the difference between sensing and intuitive on the MBTI. I'm an INFP, but also very close to being INFJ. I've always focused exclusively on just the difference between perceiving and judging, but I've found lots of information about the overall differences between INFPs and INFJs, because the traits interact with each other in different ways that go beyond just the differences between perceiving and judging. I've found some really fascinating personality psychology pins.

It's funny, I just keep pinning and pinning and figure I'll go back and add my own captions later (unless I really don't like the caption that's there already and need to change it before I can put it on my board), but now I've got 522 pins and only written about 10 captions. So, yeah...

So, here's the thing: a lot of websites nowadays "know you." Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, Youtube, etc. They recommend people you may know or want to follow, movies you might like, other products you might want to buy, based on your past preferences. You know it's just automated, just based on statistics. I know Pinterest works the same way. But it feels different.

Let's take Facebook for example. When I was in college, I went looking for a Facebook group for people who were homesick. This was in 2008, back when the design was different and Facebook was mainly for college students. When I typed in the word "homesick," I had literally had to scroll through ten pages of groups (not ten groups - ten pages, each with tons of groups), that were called "I'm not homesick - I get school-sick when I'm home!" Ten pages of groups like that before I could find one single group about actually being homesick. The school-sick groups had 200-300 members, whereas the homesick groups all had less than 100 members. I felt more alone than ever. But of course, the phrase, "I'm not homesick" contains the word "homesick," and Facebook automatically sorted by popularity rather than relevance.

Similar things have been impossible to find on the internet. I have often ended up with search results that are the exact opposite of what I'm looking for - things that put down what I'm looking for and convince people to not be like me. That has happened most of the times that I've gone searching for support online. Even an INFP group I looked at had the admins telling people to suck it up and deal. You find people claiming that it's a problem that so many college students are depressed - but a problem with the students themselves, rather than the system.

Back to Facebook: For years, Facebook kept giving me these ads for going back to school for various degrees. Every single time I saw an ad like that, I exed it out. Half the times I wrote in "I hate school!" as the reason I didn't like the ad, other times I clicked "Against my beliefs." I did this every day, for every ad, and it had absolutely no effect. The school ads did not stop until I turned 25 and was no longer in the demographic for them.

At one point I had 400-something Facebook friends, and now I have a much smaller group. Observation: when you have a smaller-than-normal number of Facebook friends, Facebook badgers you a lot more about adding more people than it does when you have a lot of friends. Now, if I were designing Facebook, I would do this the other way around: if someone only has 30 FB friends and is not new to FB, I would assume that they don't want a large group of FB friends and leave them alone. If someone has over 500 FB friends, I would assume that they do want a large group of FB friends, so I would put extra effort into recommending friends to them. This is just basic logic, but Facebook doesn't work that way because it wants to change people who only have 30 FB friends into the kind of people who have 500.

Pinterest is the only website where I've ever felt truly accepted. It's the only place that I've been able to search for most things without getting tons of results that try to talk me out of wanting what I want and feeling how I feel. Most things, but way more than normal.

I didn't go searching for introvert stuff initially. I searched INFP, repinned some things, and the next thing I knew, I was getting tons and tons of recommendations of introvert pins, and the boards with these pins led me to even more introvert pins. And let me tell you something: this is not normal. This is not like pinning a birdhouse and then getting lots more tips on how to build birdhouses. It's not normal to get tons and tons of pins that affirm introversion and treat it as perfectly okay. The normal response - both in real life conversations and most online search engines and even forums - is about how to stop being introverted and get out more. You just cannot search a word like "introvert" without getting tons and tons of people trying to change you. But on Pinterest, you can. It is literally the first website I've used where this was true.

Then there's Grumpy Cat. Now, Grumpy Cat is a well-known meme, so you can pretty much search for Grumpy Cat anywhere on the internet and find it. But the overall concept of being grumpy and saying "fuck everything" - how many places can you say stuff like that nowadays and have it validated and get more of it in return, instead of being told to smile more? When Pinterest started recommending more Grumpy Cat, more "fuck everything" memes...it was special. It's not something that happens very often. Only very, very good friends do that sort of thing.

And this is what brings me to the whole "Friends who know you better than Pinterest." See, the kinds of results that I get when I search for stuff on the internet - results that try to talk me out of my feelings and what I really want - that's how a lot of people talk to you. A lot of people - okay the vast majority of people I've talked to - automatically try to change me. If I say I don't like doing something, that's an invitation to try to get me to like it. If I say I do like something, that's an invitation to get me to stop doing it. It's the same way that if you search "emotional validation," you get all these quotes that pressure you to not need the thing that you searched for, rather than actually finding stuff about validation. (I am planning to fix this glitch when my book gets published).

In the world of the internet, I feel like Pinterest represents true friends - people who accept you for who you are and don't try to change you unless you express a desire to change. On Pinterest, you would need to express the desire to change yourself by pinning something related to the change, because Pinterest doesn't "recommend" things to you unless you've given it a reason to assume that you might like those things.

Pinterest isn't perfect - I have gotten recommendations of pins about accepting things you can't change and being positive and things like that - but I can always tell where Pinterest got those ideas from. I can always look at a pin and think, okay, this is the opposite of me, but I can see how this is connected to other things I've pinned by association of what other people would normally pin together. It always feels like Pinterest has good intentions - the intention of matching me, not changing me.

The same is true for good friends. Knowing each other better than Pinterest doesn't mean finding tons of things that the other person will be interested in. It doesn't mean we have to always accurately guess everything about each other. It doesn't even mean that we have to be right all the time. It's about intention. It means that even if I recommend something to a friend that they don't like, I did it because I sincerely thought that they would like it, not because I want to change them into the kind of person who would like it.

That is what I mean about good friends knowing each other better than Pinterest. It means that if someone says they love blueberry pie, you talk about blueberry pie rather than saying, "Blueberry pie is bad for you, so let me talk to you about eating more salad." It means that, unlike a website search engine, we can actually read what inspirational quotes say, rather than lumping them all into the category of "inspirational quotes," so we have no reason to be telling someone to smile more when they've said that they don't want to, or to write a happy story when they want to write an angry or depressing story, or to accept what they can't change when they want to change what they can't accept. These are difficult distinctions for a website to get right, but *we* should be able to get those things right, or at least work towards getting them right.

The fact is, Pinterest accepts me and respects who I am more than a lot of people I've encountered. And it shouldn't be that way. It's a website. It shouldn't be able to accept me better than real people, but it does.

True friends are people who know you, accept you, and respect you more than Pinterest ever will.

Thank you for knowing me better than Pinterest. <3 nbsp="">

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