In the days and weeks after moving to Sweden last October, I became an avid user of Pinterest.
Keenly aware that we would soon have our own apartment to decorate and furnish – the first home that was really ours – I wanted “inspiration”.
Pinterest is used for all sorts of different things, but it is particularly potent as a purveyor of inspiration. With a couple of clicks it shows you a perfect life – the life that you could have, if you were just willing to put a bit of effort in. The perfect wedding, complete with homemade mason jar decorations. The perfect shabby-chic dresser for your hallway, converted from something that was just plain shabby. The perfect bottom, to keep your body in line with today’s trends.
Soon, the pinboard I was keeping as inspiration for our future apartment included things like “victorian whale bookends“, “vintage farmhouse table“, and DIY projects – sorry, hacks – like “replace a closet door with a bookcase door“. After we had signed the paperwork on our flat, I spent my evenings creating endless floor plans, sketching in where the furniture would go. I planned a “reading nook” in the little indent by the window in the spare bedroom. I was delighted when I realised the kitchen had the perfect little pantry area to stash away a cute vintage-style drinks trolley.
It wasn’t long before reality started to set in. Money was obviously a consideration, but so was our time and our energy. We needed a kitchen table to eat off – so we got a slightly tatty, but perfectly functional, one from the second hand shop (so much for the vintage farmhouse dream). We were given a coffee table for free, so it’s unlikely that we’ll end up making one from four modular crates. That reading nook space I dreamed of, in reality, only measures 70 cm across. In one shop, I swooned over a corner cabinet that was just as gorgeous as one I had pinned – then realised we had no suitable corners to put it in. (I’m still holding out for the drinks trolley.)
At first it was difficult to reconcile the richly detailed aspirational life I had carved out on Pinterest with the reality of what our flat was going to look like. I felt a strange kind of guilt and dissatisfaction knowing that our actual, lived-in home would never look as perfect as the pictures I had pinned.
But earlier this week, it finally happened. The pin that broke the camel’s back. The picture that revealed to me what ought to have been obvious all along: that I was deluding myself.
Naturally, I was drawn to this pin. I’m currently on the lookout for a great rug for the living room; now I can make sure I get one that’s the right size!
But as I scrolled down from “not ideal” (spoiler alert: it’s a small rug) to “better” to “best” I found myself frowning and shaking my head. The pin wasn’t right. It wasn’t right at all. In its bizarre alternative universe, the ideal rug placement has several chairs surrounding it with two of their four legs on the rug and two off it. That’s just weird – and if the rug is reasonably thick it’s going to make the chairs less stable to sit on. (Let’s not even get into the kind of dents those chair legs will leave in the rug.)
I took to Twitter with my disbelief. And even as I typed the words, “Pinterest: for the perfect home you don’t actually intend to live in”, I knew they were true.
It was like the curtain crashing down in The WIzard of Oz. All those stunning rooms I had pinned? They were HUGE. And usually, almost bare. And I had never seen so much as a stray magazine in them. No one is that tidy. These are not people’s homes. This is not real. Pinterest is a lie.
I want to say that I should never have been duped, I should have been breezing cynically along from the start, “yeah, but no one’s house actually looks like that”. But these days we curate our lives on social media – we only share the highlights and half of the time even those are filtered. The line between what we are and what we aspire to be grows ever more translucent – from the outside we don’t want anyone to know the difference.
What I’m trying to say, I guess, is I believed it was all real because it has become believable that a real person would made their own home look catalogue-level immaculate in order to take a photo and pin it onto a website. And I suppose it’s “true” in the sense that I’m sure a lot of people have done that.
But my god – wouldn’t they rather be living?