SAN ANTONIO, Texas — During the height of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, the website Gawker asked “Why Do Mormons, Including Mitt Romney's Wife, Love Pinterest?” Scholar Saskia Tielens explored this same question June 6 at the Mormon History Association Conference.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially joined Pinterest in the past few weeks. With over 70 million users, 80 percent of whom are female, Pinterest continues to be one of the fastest-growing social media platforms. And, as Tielens explained, “while Mormon users make up a relatively small percentage of users, they have a larger-than-life cultural presence on the site.”
Tielens decided to discover some of the reasons. She explained:
1. Pinterest rewards the domestic talents of the young stay-at-home mom, and is a valuable tool for those who love to craft.
2. Though users can leave comments on other people’s pins, Pinterest is relatively drama-free compared to blogs or Facebook. Users can just ignore pins that don’t appeal to them and repin those they do like.
3. Repinning images reaffirms ties to the Mormon community and acts as a kind of digital bumper sticker, making one's cultural loyalties visible.
Tielens then outlined the type of pins that are common in the Mormon corridor of Pinterst.
“Inspirational quotes are popular and often overlaid on pictures of temples or nature and feature a variety of fonts," Tielens said. "After general conference, Pinterest is flooded with memes relating to the most popular talks.”
She also found many examples of inside Mormon jokes, often overlaid on images from Disney movies. Pinterest also helps Mormons plan for temple weddings, family home evenings, Primary classes, missionary service and more.
“Though boards that have to do with contesting religious truth claims also exist, as do divisive political pins, Pinterest is generally a positive place and pins are more likely to reflect a love for Mormon culture than anything else," Tielens said.
An interesting phenomenon Tielens noted was the repining of Mormon quotes “by other Christians who vaguely like the sentiment but are unfamiliar with LDS teachings.
"And pinners are notorious for never checking the source, anyway. Judging by Pinterest, the idea that Mormons are a part of Christianity is certainly borne out.”
The way Mormons reflect their culture, beliefs and doctrines on Pinterest is a microcosm of how they do it in real life, Tielens explained.
“Whether it’s hanging a framed Proclamation on the Family in your house or having the LDS scriptures on your bookshelf, or repinning general conference quotes or cap-sleeved wedding dresses, this process helps extend religion from something that happens on Sunday in the ward meetinghouse to something that is integrated in many facets of your life.”
And, as Tielens concluded, while Pinterest could be seen as a place where Mormon conformity is celebrated, “There are still enough signs that the peculiar people have been there, if you know what to look for. However, the title of 'peculiar people' might be contested. After all, once you’ve visited the geek page one too many times, Mormonism starts looking pretty normal.”
Emily W. Jensen covered the LDS online world for five years. She continues to track online developments and discussions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org