Pinterest: Social media without the social

So many of us use social media on a daily basis and have different opinions when it comes to how it affects us. What can be agreed upon unanimously is the potential detrimental effects of social media surrounding mental health, social comparison and self-presentation. Former Facebook President, Sean Parker, described the platform as a “social validation feedback loop”, but Pinterest has overcome the failures of other platforms by becoming the social media without the social.

Pinterest is a huge social media platform with 416 million monthly active users. It is the third biggest social media app in the US as of 2020. For those who are not familiar, Pinterest is quite simply a platform where you can create different mood boards on anything that interests you. What makes Pinterest different from other social media is the omission of an interactive comment section, avoiding the need to actively engage with others. 

Recently, when scrolling through Twitter, I came across a tweet praising the calming effect of Pinterest – and with over 540k likes, it is obvious that many people agree with this claim. Some users noted how “therapeutic” the platform is, with others stating: “I think it’s my favourite app. It’s like an escape from all other apps”, celebrating the lack of social interaction, leaving users “just vibing”. Interestingly, one person said that “there is no noise from people”.

These responses demonstrate that there is a huge amount of support for a social media without the social. It is clear there is a desire for more platforms like Pinterest where users do not need to engage with each other regularly and have the freedom to create their own inspirational world without worrying about external voices.

So how does this relate to our mental health? And how does the harm of social media link to contact with others or is it, instead, the content we are exposed to?

Avoiding a “mental health crisis”

According to a report by RSPH (Royal Society for Public Health), Instagram is the worst social media platform when it comes to impacting young people’s mental health, going as far as to say that “social media may be fuelling a mental health crisis” in young people. Considering the need for more platforms with beneficial effects for users is where Pinterest comes into the discussion.

The comment and like sections on social media platforms create, on the one hand, a place for praise but, on the other, an unhealthy environment of judgement. Users are bombarded with other people’s images and videos on a daily basis which typically don’t reflect reality, thus creating unrealistic expectations. 

We are all guilty of sharing fun parts of our lives, reserving the nitty gritty for behind the camera. Most of the time this does not reflect the reality we live in. We are all culpable of creating a false reality for the benefit of others.

One of the best aspects of Pinterest is that it welcomes everyone from different walks of life. Whether you are a business owner, student, creator, or a parent looking for inspiration, it can allow you to find inspiration and relax. It is safe to say that Pinterest solely aims to create a stimulating and creative environment without the “social” element in it.

Pinterest has launched a series of wellbeing activities in order to provide mental health support for its users. When users search for mental health-related terms, a prompt will appear asking if they want to explore the platform’s wellbeing resources, collaborating with mental health organisations to create a soothing environment. 

My experience with Pinterest

The problem with social media is that it has allowed us to become involved in each other’s lives; the lives of friends, and also the lives of strangers projecting their idealised version of reality out to the world. As social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, the time we spend looking at other people’s posts has increased, along with false interaction and false realities. 

I use social media every day; however, I do my best to avoid the negative impact. Whenever I start feeling negative or overwhelmed, I reduce the time I spend on Instagram and switch to Pinterest, because I know that it’s my safe space and I don’t have to deal with other people’s comments. Using Pinterest on a daily basis even inspires me to achieve my goals as creating mood boards is a motivating and creative feature.

As a university student, whenever I lack drive to do work, I always find motivational content on Pinterest. Finding different note-taking systems and study techniques help me to focus on my uni work.  Also, creating a mood board for upcoming projects that I have in mind is always encourages me to work on them. Generally, I use Pinterest as my source for inspiration.

The time we spend on social media is passive: we’re not doing anything beneficial for ourselves and our goals. Yet, Pinterest offers a creative space which will most likely inspires its users into action.

Romanticising nature of social media: a caveat?

I distinguish Pinterest from other social media platforms, but it is important to discuss the tendency to romanticise on social media. Pinterest offers a wide range of photos and videos, which might result in a harmful environment with triggering content. After all, any platform with such a broad range of free content could always lead you to an unhealthy environment. 

It is crucial to use social media platforms for our benefit, and we have the control to have a positive experience. I believe Pinterest’s lack of human interaction contributes to its positive image as its rivals are rife with social comparison and a false reality.

Pinterest as an escape from other social media apps

It is likely for someone to get overwhelmed and carried away by huge amounts of irrelevant content on social media platforms – especially during a pandemic. So many people are spending time reading the news, scrolling through Twitter or Instagram without giving the content they consume a second thought.

I believe Pinterest creates an alternative to its rivals such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It acts as an escape for those who are overwhelmed by social comparison and false self-presentation. One of the best features of the app is that it is for everyone.

Yet, there exists a misconception that the app is only for women. Although 74% of its users are female, this doesn’t mean the content excludes its male audience. You can find ANY topic you want on Pinterest (tried and approved) and it gives you the freedom to create your own visual boards; what more could you want?

It is critical to ensure that the time we spend on social media is enjoyable rather than damaging, prioritising ourselves over false perceptions we consume. We, the users of social media, should demand more platforms that have a calming and inspiring effect rather than the judgement-filled environment of typical social media platforms. What makes Pinterest so great as a social media platform, is the lack of social.

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