Earlier this week, blogger Lauren Bersaglio posted a handwritten letter to Pinterest. "Dear Friends," it began, "There’s something I want you to know about my eating disorder." For a site typically associated with pretty clothes and gracious interiors, it's a strikingly emotional post. But its form, the handwritten note, is nearly as crucial as its content.
Handwriting may be a dying art, but it's enjoying a bit of a resurgence on Pinterest. There it provides something print can't always offer: a sense of connection between author and reader.
Bersaglio, the founder of eating disorder recovery magazine Libero Network, says she chose handwriting for its emotional immediacy: "I find that handwritten words create a more personal connection with the reader, and because of the nature of this particular post, I really wanted people to feel that personal connection." She added, "in a world where one could possibly get by without ever picking up a pen, [the] handwritten word just seems more raw and real to me."
It's also more visual. Pinterest is all about looking, and nobody's pinning blocks of unadorned, typed text there. But they are pinning notes, many of them inspirational in feel. Post-it notes by the Christian blogger Jon Acoff are popular:
Not all the handwritten notes on Pinterest are so heartfelt — there's a strange sub-genre of notes left on parked cars. But many have the feeling of something you'd tape to your mirror to get you through a hard day. And such motivators may have more impact if they're handwritten — Bersaglio notes that "I always feel more connected to my words when pen meets paper," and readers too may feel more connected to the words if they know that somebody, somewhere, physically wrote them down.
Bersaglio says that although "pro-ana" Pinterest boards have become infamous (and been banned), the social network has a strong eating disorder recovery community too. None of the content there looks exactly like Bersaglio's note, but many recovery pins have a handwritten feel:
Pinterest's consumerist side has been much-critiqued, but it also has an emotional side, where users pin content that makes them feel happy, hopeful, calm, amused, or connected. This side doesn't look like the blogosphere — Bersaglio says she pinned the image of her handwritten letter in part so fellow pinners would know it wasn't "just another blog post." It doesn't necessarily have space for nuanced argument or complexity (though Bersaglio's full letter, which explains why she may need to skip out on social events like dinner parties to preserve her mental health, has both). It privileges brief, emotionally intense messages with a visual element — like notes from a friend, but the kind you'd actually save. The mailed letter may be dead, but at least on Pinterest, the passed note lives.