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Interest in Pinterest: Members organize all their favorite things

In recent conversations, one word that Kelly O'Brien keeps hearing is "Pinterest." Over and over again.

"I feel like that's all anyone is talking about," says O'Brien, 33, of Mt. Washington.

And it's no wonder, says O'Brien, who has become a devotee of the Internet sensation. The public-relations professional uses Pinterest to promote clients and for personal benefits. In her Pinterest account, she has a food board she calls "Yummy Smart Cookie." Here, she stores recipes that otherwise would pile up as kitchen clutter.

"For me, it's really about a place for inspiration," O'Brien says. "Pinterest really allows you a way to organize and really archive and have a home for everything."

Pinterest.com , a website that is only two years old, has blown into and through the social-networking world like a Tazmanian devil, and it is thought to be the fastest-growing stand-alone website ever. Pinterest surpassed the 10-million user mark in just nine months, and by January 2012, Internet marketing-research company comScore reported 11.7 million Pinterest users. Then, just last month, the website exploded by 52 percent into 17.8 million users.

Why such intense interest -- er, pinterest -- in the website, which serves as a virtual bulletin board• Users, overwhelmingly female, use the site to "pin" things that interest them such as pictures, recipes, quotes and product reviews. Other users see the posts, and often re-pin them. The pinned item can reach thousands of users a day with this networking.

Nancy Mramor, a media and health psychologist in McCandless, describes Pinterest as a virtual hybrid of Better Homes and Gardens, HGTV and Whole Living magazines combined into one free, splashy and colorful, tip-oriented clearinghouse.

"This is a one-stop shopping website," Mramor says. "It's like a feel-good website.

"There is a sisterhood about it," she says. "You kind of have a feeling you know these people because they're your Pinterest buddies. You get to know who's who."

Like other technology, though, a potential downside to Pinterest could be spending hours on the Internet, when doing something else would be more productive. In particular, social-networking sites often take the place of in-person communication, like meeting up with a group of girlfriends to swap recipes, Mramor says. Real, live human communication is important, she says.

"If you like this site, enjoy it, just like you would enjoy anything in moderation," Mramor says. "Too much sitting is unhealthy. ... There's a social isolation about technology."

Denise Pursifull, 54, of Evans City, discovered Pinterest around Christmas, when a family member told her the website was really cool, and sent her an invitation to join, which is necessary. You can request an invitation on the site. You also can search the site without logging in, but you can't post any comments or create your own collections.

"I said, 'Yeah, yeah, whatever. I'll take a look at it when I get back home, ' " Pursifull says. "The more I looked at it, the more absorbed I got in it.

"It's almost like a big clipboard," says Pursifull, who uses Pinterest a lot for recipes.

"I never seem to be able to put my hands on a recipe when I want it; I hunt through recipe books," she says. "Now, I keep online folders."

Pursifull gets ideas for her home and vacations through Pinterest, along with movie recommendations. "It's just about everything you can think of. ... It is kind of like a big-girl party."

Her husband, Monte, "just shakes his head and says, 'It's a woman thing.' "

Many business people have used Pinterest to promote their products. Kelly Lester, a "mompreneur" who follows social media, says she never has spent money to advertise for her business, EasyLunchboxes.com, which sells eco-friendly lunch boxes. Lester, of Los Angeles, says that Pinterest has become her biggest source of customers. She is preparing to speak at a summit and write an article about her success with the website.

Numerous customers have taken photos of the lunches they pack in Lester's boxes, and pinned them on Pinterest and her website. This has led to good exposure, she says. Lester -- whose daughter, Jenny Lester, is a musical-theater student at Point Park University -- also pins recipes.

"Now that Pinterest is so huge," Kelly Lester says, businesses who don't use it are "really missing out."

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