Oh my. Everyone, but everyone, seems to have gone suddenly crazy for Pinterest.
Not me. I have decided that I Will Not Pin. And it's not just because I'm a jumper-off from bandwagons, though that's true. All my life, if everyone was wearing mulberry and taupe, I was in black and scarlet; if everyone was coming out of the movie theatre drooling about "Titanic" or "American Beauty", I was running the other way screaming "GARBAGE!".
(Don't start me. Please.)
So perhaps I was inclined not to pin from the start. But honestly, contrary nature aside, my rational brain can think of plenty of reasons not to pin.
(You're wondering what this has to do with childcare, aren't you? Bear with me. I always get there in the end.)
First and foremost is this: I have enough ways to sit in front of a screen already. Too many ways. (Go on then, count how many you have- I dare you.)
Each day, by the time I've dealt with my Facebook page, my Aunt Annie page, my Aunt Annie blog and four private groups, then copied various posts to Google+ and Twitter, plus made my move in the half dozen games of what I call 'Bogus Scrabble' that I always have going at once... well, half the morning's gone and the washing up's still in the sink.
But then I have to add the passive screen stuff- the mind-broadening, and the plain old necessary. About thirty blogs I follow and the daily paper I adore, which I scan through and then read selectively. Email to deal with, approaching weather to check, banking to do, maybe some brainless PhotoShop work to deal with- stuff I do on the side to earn a few bucks. (Darn this earning money thing. Why can't it drop from the sky?)
And it all happens on a screen.
(I haven't even mentioned that other screen, the one I watch the news and the football and the occasional drama on at night, often with my laptop still on my lap so I can chat to my friends in the ad breaks.)
I Will Not Pin. Clearly I don't need another straw on that particular camel's saddle. (NB: bareback riding is not my forte.)
And then there's the personal side of my life. I have a relationship, I have dependents. I do not need one more thing to eat my time and distract me from the man I love, who is already somewhat prickly about the time I spend staring at a screen and not really listening to what he's saying. I do not need one more thing to keep me sitting in a chair instead of horsing around with my beloved dogs, who are at that age where it's exercise or collapse under the layers of lard.
(Come to think of it, I'm at that age too.)
I Will Not Pin.
I mean, when is enough enough? Is copying and sorting other people's ideas into albums really going to make me better organised? (Do I want to be better organised? It's never been a problem before. Why start now? Half my creativity is the child of chaos.)
Do I need pinning in my life? What does it add? I have bookmarks to keep hold of something online that captures my attention and is worthy of revisiting. Do I really need to spend hours trawling through what's captured other people?
I Will Not Pin.
Am I protesting too much?
Guilty, guilty, guilty. Yes, of course I'm protesting too much, because of course the temptation is there to browse through the bright and shiny photos, pecking at other people's ideas like a magpie, carrying off whatever gleams, and telling myself that it's work-related- when really, it's more like watching MasterChef and telling yourself you're cooking. 99% of pinning is fantasy land, stuff you'll never look at again or use. (I mean, if the idea is arresting enough, you'll remember it and probably use it straight away.)
And of course, we all need a bit of fantasy. But I'm a realist. A picture may indeed say a thousand words, but they may not be the words I want you to hear. I'm talking behaviour, philosophy, problem-solving; I don't want to offer you a short cut that may end in a dead end of your own preconceptions. I want you to hear exactly what I'm saying. And I love using words carefully, using them to point you in a certain direction and then letting you create the pictures in your own head, as you apply my words to your own unique situation.
So I Will Not Pin.
It's a boundary I'm setting myself, because the temptation is there to just go on sitting here and start investigating what all the shouting's about, to let myself get hooked in to yet another online addiction. (Don't tell me it's not addictive. The evidence is in.)
And just like children, adults need to set boundaries for themselves. Being all grown up isn't an excuse for doing whatever the hell catches our eye. We are role models, and moderation can be modelled just like everything else.
I mean, exactly what am I teaching if I'm always in front of a screen? What are you teaching? Just for a moment, step AWAY from the screen and look at yourself through your child's eyes, your partner's eyes, your students' eyes.
I don't care if it's a case of being hopelessly addicted to Angry Birds, or doing the centre's paperwork all day with barely an appearance outside your office. It's not the justification for being attached to that screen that matters; it's the simple fact of our constant attachment.
We- you and I and all the other techno-addicts out there- we are teaching disengagement from real life.
We are teaching that answers come from a screen, not from interaction with the people in our life.
We are teaching that being in touch with nature is of secondary importance.
We are teaching that being present in and aware of the moment, the space around us, the people around us, are all of secondary importance.
We are teaching that boundaries around screens aren't something we take seriously.
So is that what you want to be teaching? If not, then maybe some adjustments are necessary, because otherwise you are lining up for a whole new burden, like overweight teenagers who simply don't respond when you speak to them. And I am lining up for a partner who no longer bothers even to try to talk to me. And fat, sick dogs. (And a fat, sick self.)
These things are more important than our blog stats and our Facebook stats and our multiple spurious methods of bolstering our self-esteem. They're more important than almost all the stuff we do sitting at a screen.
And so this boundary I've set is only the first step in cutting back. I'll still be here, don't you worry; but I'm trying to set some limits on how long I sit here. And I'm making a point of talking to the real people around me about what I'm doing while I'm here, instead of living in a bubble and being irritated when they try to pop it.
Don't get me wrong. Pinterest may be perfect for you; my boundaries are not your boundaries. It's all about context.
But do you actually have some boundaries around those screens?