10/31/2011 01:53 pm ET | Updated Dec 31, 2011

The Web Is a Room With a View

When you choose to wear the red flannel shirt instead of the blue sweater, you're expressing yourself. Your mood. Your personality. Your values even. When you display a kitschy '70s vase from a thrift store on the designer table in your entryway it's the same thing. Same with the hula girl on your dashboard or the gnome in your yard.

We have a need to externalize our inner selves, to see our personalities reflected back at us when we look around, and to share our selves with others. It's a way of communicating that Anaïs Nin captures perfectly in Children of the Albatross:

... my house will speak for me. My house will tell them I am warm and rich. The house will tell them inside of me there are these rooms of flesh and Chinese lacquer, sea greens to walk through, inside of me there are lighted candles, live fires, shadows, spaces, open doors, shelters and air currents. Inside of me there is color and warmth.

The Web has endless rooms for you to decorate.

Rooms and closet space are finite. So are our resources. And we have physical limitations too. But the Web kind of goes on forever.

Maybe the thought of expressing yourself on the Web is repugnant or frightening to you.  I don't blame you. There are some things out there that are themselves repugnant and frightening! But there are others that can be beautiful and beneficial.

I was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness that has reduced my energy and stamina. I feel so fortunate that when this happened I already had an online home I'd been decorating for years that I could enjoy. My online home has pictures and stories and news and visitors. It's a nice place to be on a rainy day.

Kits for building an online home.

A French artist I follow on Twitter tweeted something her husband said the other day that really touched me: "You should be able to buy a kit to build yourself an inner world to counteract the loneliness and isolation of old age."

Such kits exist! That's what blogs are, and mobile applications like Instagram, and platforms like Pinterest. The Web is bursting with them.

If you're tempted to expand to the Web, but are feeling some trepidation about making the leap into blogging or posting photos online, Pinterest is an attractive and entertaining toy you might like to start with. It's a website that lets you fill online bulletin boards with things you find online.

Pinterest provides a creative outlet and it's easy to use. Best of all, without ever putting any personal information online, you end up with a very personal site.

To test the site, I created a bulletin board called "Pink," among others. Whenever I come across something pink I like, I can "pin" it to my Pink board. I can share my pink collection with others, I can follow other people with pink collections, re-pin things from their boards onto mine... I can even let other people pin things to my Pink board if I want to. It's like having an online curio cabinet. I can gaze at and (mentally) fondle the pretty things in my collection whenever I feel the need.

Pinterest can be much more than a toy, however. You can use it for more practical purposes too. If you're redecorating a room, planning a themed party, designing a quilt -- you name it -- you can use Pinterest as an inspiration board, the way Florida wedding photographer Rachel Durik does. (I want to get married again just to have her take the pictures!)


I won't be giving you Pinterest lessons in this post. Learning your way around is half the fun, and Pinterest has good online help. If you don't know where to start, or if you get frustrated, ask a kid (as I've said before). In fact, I think it might be fun to sit down with friends or family members to set up shared or separate Pinterest boards. Quality time.

The moral of the story is that using the Web for creative expression doesn't necessarily mean that you have to give up your privacy. And Pinterest just got $27 million in funding, so you should be able to count on the site being around for a while. What are you waiting for? Start pinning!