Survivalists Are Using Pinterest to Prepare for the Apocalypse

These pinners aren’t sharing how-tos for jalapeño poppers or homemade birthday hats.

1946 Atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll. (U.S. Navy/REUTERS)

Pinterest is best known as a destination where people can share affordable wedding ideas, dip recipes, and inspirational quotes pasted over photos of white sand beaches. But a small number of Pinterest users also swap how-tos on building bomb shelters, storing food, and emergency medical care—for “when there are no doctors.”

Meet the preppers of Pinterest.

These are people who anticipate financial, environmental, or biological catastrophe, and are actively preparing by stockpiling food, medicine, weapons, and other tools for survival. There are pinboards for every type of prepper.

Survival Mom blogger Lisa Bedford has dozens of pinboards and thousands of followers.

Many preppers offer information about bartering, anticipating a devaluing of currency or other economic disaster.

Campfire starters, two-way radios, and portable water filters are must-haves.

You’ll even find  tips on vegan, paleo, and gluten-free prepping.

The site’s larger do-it-yourself ethos dovetails with the prepper movement’s self-sufficient values. And with the growing popularity of once-arcane skills like canning, gardening and butchery, the line begins to blur between the artisanal and the paranoid.

Of course, social media has birthed (or at least unveiled) some pretty weird subcultures. We now have seapunk and vaporwave on Tumblr, and Instagram hashtags for desk porn and stationery porn. But why would survivalists flock to Pinterest, a site that was adopted early-on by people who wanted to share design ideas for home goods? In a way, preppers are actually the ideal user for the site. After all, Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp says it was always meant to be a utility: “It’s a tool people use to plan their futures,” he told ReadWrite earlier this year. Preppers just happen to think the future looks bleak.

Besides, the Internet is a place where specialized communities convene and thrive. There are subreddits for “preppers,” “prepping” and “PostCollapse,” along with forums for silver bugs, gold bugs, and all flavors of conspiracy theorists. There are prepper blogs, and message boards, and prepper meetups in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Fairfax, Va. Preppers have their own jargon, like TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know It), WTSHTF (When the Shit Hits the Fan) and GOOD (Get Out of Dodge).

Pinterest is one of the most popular social media sites, so it’s not surprising that users who are part of the prepping community have carved out a niche for themselves. It’s unclear whether preppers see any irony in the fact that they are using a site that drives consumer sales as a way to plan for economic, social or environmental collapse.  (I contacted about a dozen of them; no one got back to me).

Maybe he link between preppers and Pinterest may have something to do with Mormons. Seriously. Pinterest appears to be really popular with followers of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, for whom preparing for tough times is an article of faith. “Church members are encouraged to prepare a simple emergency plan,” says the official website for the Church. “Items to consider may include: Three month supply of food that is part of your normal daily diet. Drinking water. Financial reserves. Longer-term supply of basic food items. Medication and first aid supplies. Clothing and bedding. Important documents. Ways to communicate with family following a disaster.”

Who are the non-Mormon preppers? “Some are just ‘regular folks’ that want to be prepared for disasters and other emergencies,” said Aton Edwards, a preparedness expert with the International Preparedness Network. “I'd say that this would constitute the majority of practitioners.”

In the United States, the unstable economy and high unemployment rate have prompted people to squirrel away staples for collapse, or at least made them think more seriously about how to prepare for tough times. “Our volatile society doesn't offer much hope of a stable future,” says Edwards. “In the end, preppers know the cold hard fact that when the ‘going gets tough,’ Americans will be as the rest of the Third World is: on their own.”

For some, the solution is to start pinning.