I recently made the mistake of joining Pinterest, just to see what all the fuss is about. Boy was that a mistake. I have been being pelted with “so and so is now following you on Pinterest” messages ever since.
Pinterest, for the unaware, is essentially a kind of digital scrapbook for people who apparently did not spend enough time doing crafts in summer camp.
See an image of something you like on the InterWebs? You can use a handy little browser plugin to “pin” it to a thematically arranged Pinterest board and share it with your friends. (Which incidentally could very well violate somebody else’s copyright, which is why Pinterest just started offering rights holders ways to keep people from grabbing images.)
The Pinboards can be artsy, funny, commercial, even political. That’s all well and good. The problem is that Pinterest is just a wee bit too eager to make friends. When you sign up, it urges you to select from more than two dozen categories (like humor or technology). Pick one, and you’re automatically following 10 people who post boards in that category.
If you used Facebook to sign up, Pinterest also automatically follows your Facebook friends who also use Pinterest. They will of course follow you back in a Pavlovian fashion, resulting in a swarm of notification emails. I have received more than 100 such emails in the past 10 days, without doing anything more than I just described. I’m far from the only person who’s swimming in Pinterest spam lately.
(Also: if you’ve managed thus far to avoid Facebook Timeline, I’ve got bad news. You are required to use Timeline if you want to connect your Pinterest account. It installs itself into a prominent spot in your Timeline by default, though you can undo that later.)
Log in to Pinterest, if you dare, and you will also see a running list of everyone who followed, liked, or re-pinned one of your pins. Like you have time for this.
You can minimize some of the damage by going to Pinterest’s rather sparse settings, where you can turn off the links to Facebook and Twitter and tell it whether to make your profile visible to Google. You can also go into Facebook’s Privacy settings, go to Apps and Websites, scroll down the list of Apps you use until you get to Pinterest, and tell it to stop get the heck off your Timeline page and stop sending you notifications. At least, in theory.
But these settings don’t quite work. For example: Pinterest’s default setting is to prevent search engines from finding you. But if someone else who follows you has search visibility turned on, Google can still find you in their followers list.
Also, de-linking Facebook from Pinterest did not remove it from my Timeline, as I expected, nor was I able to change my notification or sharing settings in the Facebook app. Either these are serious bugs or the computing gods just have it in for me today; I'm betting on the former.
It gets worse. Aside from the initial signup, I can find no way to easily unfollow all these people. I had to go to each of their profiles and click “unfollow all” (which is automatically greyed out, making it look as if the option were unavailable). I can’t find any method of keeping people from following me, either, as I can with Facebook or Twitter.
When it comes to spurring viral growth, Pinterest is a straight A student. As a way to give users control over the data they share and with whom, however, Pinterest earns a D+ at best.
Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.