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The Dads of Pinterest

Christopher Persley’s 7-year-old daughter, Camilla, loves dressing up as superheroes and movie characters. So when she got the chance to appear on Good Morning America in 2016 to ask actress Zoe Saldana a question, Camilla was set on wearing a Lt. Nyota Uhura costume, like Saldana’s Star Trek character.

Persley, a New York City stay-at-home dad and part-time educator, ordered a Uhura costume online, but when it didn’t come in time for Camilla’s GMA appearance, he turned to Pinterest for DIY tips. “It gave me some ideas to start with a red dress, and some people suggested making a Star Trek communicator button that they have on their uniforms. But I already had one, so I was like, let me just use that,” he explains. “It ended up being perfect. It was very last minute, but Pinterest saved us. Camilla looked great on the show and was super confident and had a great time.” Apart from inspiration for DIY costumes, Persley, 44, who also runs the dad blog The Brown Gothamite, says Pinterest is his go-to for recipes and credits the platform for boosting his comfort level in the kitchen, since he does most of the cooking for his wife and daughter.

He’s among a growing number of dads gravitating to Pinterest, a platform that’s typically been popular with women and moms. Now, though, about 40 percent of fathers in the U.S. use Pinterest, too, including 45 percent of dads with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more, according to the company. And specifically over the past year, Pinterest has seen a 450 percent increase in dads searching for kid-friendly projectss. Dads also over-index compared to other male users in searches for easy and healthy recipes.

Scott Steinberg, author of The Modern Parent’s Guide book series and host of video show Family Tech: Technology for Parents and Kids, says the influx of dads on Pinterest is reflective of modern fatherhood. “Once upon a time, fathers went to work, came home, had a TV dinner, helped you with your homework and you didn’t see too much of them,” he says. “But now, dads are actively involved in every facet of kids’ lives, and appreciating the joy of childhood.”

Steinberg, father of an elementary schooler, says he doesn’t use Pinterest but encourages dads to try any tool that helps them out. “It’s an easy way to get tips and insights or ideas for everything from quick 15-minute dinners to the next place you need to be taking a road trip. It’s not surprising that more dads are coming around to it. Maybe what’s more surprising is that took this long for them to get there.”

In the early days of Pinterest, women flocked to the platform, creating the stereotype that it was just for them. There is, of course, some truth to that reputation. Case in point: Since most of the users have been women, much of the content today is still female-focused. That said, the platform has made an effort to add options to let users narrow their searches for women or men. And when David Rubin joined the company as head of brand in 2014 after leading the marketing efforts for Axe, he was tasked with attracting more men to Pinterest and began commissioning ad storylines that would better appeal to them. (He left the company in late 2015, after 18 months on the job.)

Neil Haldar, a divorced dad of a 15-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, says the social network has been an invaluable parenting aid, especially since he lives in the Bay Area and his kids live in Bozeman, Montana, with their mom. When he visits them about once a month, he looks up recipes and projects on Pinterest that they can do together — from dinosaur-themed dioramas, to dry-ice volcanos, to no-bake key lime pies. He says it’s also been useful for travel planning and finding kid-friendly attractions.

“I don’t have a guy friend where I can pick up the phone and be like, ‘Hey man, do happen to have an awesome recipe for a no-bake key lime pie?’” Haldar says. “So Pinterest has become my go-to in terms of what’s trending. Now, I have a place to go where I can search and get answers to questions that I feel like I’m a little behind on. That makes me a better dad.”

Haldar uses Pinterest for his personal interests, too, like motorcycles, aircraft and men’s fashion. “Ultimately, dads always want to be more involved with their kids,” he explains. “They want to come up with really smart ideas. They want to be seen as the cool dad who knew the right clothing trend or knew how to do that magic trick or just happens to know a secret recipe or how to do a science experiment.”

He does admit, though, that he finds much of Pinterest’s content “female-gender oriented,” and he wishes more content and imagery was geared toward males and fathers, explaining that the emails he gets from Pinterest suggesting new pins always seem to be directed at women. “For some reason, the pins are still largely about female users. Just a little more focus on their male-gendered or male-identified users would be really great.”

Still, there’s at least some guy stuff there. For example, 30-year-old Jay Cruz, an infantry sergeant in the U.S. Army, used Pinterest to research tattoo art. That was before, of course, he and his wife gave birth to an infant son (who is now 11 weeks old). When they decided on a “woodland theme” for his nursery, Cruz says Pinterest led them to specific design ideas and products. “It’s very helpful in showing me information or products I didn’t know I wanted,” he says. “Once I began searching for parenting-related pins, it started showing me similar content,” including age-related sleeping habits and tummy time activities.

The information isn’t necessarily father-specific, but in his opinion that doesn’t matter anyway. “In my opinion,” he says, “that reflects our cultural shift away from the traditional masculine and feminine and into a more progressive style of parenting.”

No matter how dads are using Pinterest — or how much of it’s currently for them — dad-blogger Persley says the fact that they’re there at all is evidence of how much more fathers are involved as parents these days. “More dads are willing to do things that dads 20 years ago weren’t willing to do,” he says. “Being someone who has been very much invested in my daughter’s development and wanting to be the best dad I can, Pinterest is certainly a tool that I utilize. It gives me a level of comfort in the kitchen, which honestly, I didn’t have before. I’m grateful for that. It also gives me a way to explore my creative side. I think those are all good things for my daughter to see.”