Extremely Online

Is Pinterest The Golden Retriever Of Social Media?

In an online sea of needlessly hot takes, the photo-saving platform is a welcomed reprieve.

Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; Pinterest; Stocksy; Shutterfly

Social media isn’t the low-stakes playground it once was: The most intense part of Instagram used to be choosing between the Kelvin or Valencia filter. Now, curating 10 perfectly imperfect photos for your dump and editing an end-of-year Reel leaves users, well, reeling. Back when X was called Twitter, it was a place to make jokes about what you ate for dinner; not a cesspool of needlessly hot takes. TikTok’s no longer a dancing app — some say it’s a national security threat. When people are tired of dealing with the constant intake of other people’s lives, ideas, and commentary, Pinterest provides a much-appreciated break. Now, users who struggle with burnout and opinion fatigue say it’s the one corner of the internet where they can really ~ chill out. ~

The image-sharing and saving site launched in 2010 and became known as a haven of fashion inspiration, dreamy decor pics, and DIY hacks. In the 14 years since, as social media has increasingly dominated our lives, its audience feels it’s become a reprieve. In a 2023 study with U.C. Berkeley, researchers found that daily interaction with inspiring content on Pinterest reduced stress and burnout among some Gen Z college students during their exam period. In the company’s 2024 Q1 earnings report, they shared that revenue was up 23% year-over-year — double the growth rate from the previous quarter.

Funnily enough, Pinterest users have shared how much they love the app on other platforms. In February, Ayesha Lynn, 19, posted a TikTok with the caption: “I love Pinterest. No drama, no talking, just pretty pictures and vibes.”

She considers the site part of her self-care routine. “I put on some music and I just scroll through Pinterest. And whatever finds me, finds me. And whatever I find, I find,” she tells Bustle. “I use it to relax.”

This kind of anti-social social media approach is something users don’t get anywhere else.

“[Pinterest] is inherently inwards-facing, because you’re collecting content for yourself. Instagram and TikTok, on the other hand, are outward-facing. On those platforms, you’re essentially performing for your audience, and the success of your content depends on how much they like what you post,” says Phoebe Dodds, a digital marketing strategist. When it comes to Pinterest, she says, “Forget vanity metrics.”

“If I want to see puppies all day, that’s what I see.” — Megan Thee Stallion

There’s still a community on Pinterest, though it’s a more positive, action-oriented community, not keyboard warriors hopping on a hate bandwagon or people trying to get likes in the comments section. Jessica Morrobel, a lifestyle content creator with nearly 175,000 followers on TikTok and Instagram combined, prefers the experience of using Pinterest, where she has a relatively modest but loyal 15,000 followers.

“I like to call [Pinterest] the golden retriever of social media because it feels like such a safe space,” she says. “I haven't really seen any negative discourse at all [on my page].”

That’s by design, according to Pinterest CMO Andréa Mallard. “We are not ‘engagement via enragement.’ The things that get the most distribution on Pinterest are the things that get saved most. That's very different than having the things that get the most distribution be the things that get the most responses,” she says.

Flash-in-the-pan moments like Pookie and Jett or a Reesa Teesa-level saga would never happen on Pinterest, and it’s not what users want there anyway. They’d prefer to look at pretty things with every scroll, as Megan Thee Stallion does.

“If I want to see puppies all day, that’s what I see,” the rapper said at an AdWeek event in May. She deleted Instagram and Twitter from her phone but kept Pinterest.

Users say they’re represented by what Pinterest shows them, thanks, in part, to an innovative search tool that curates fashion and beauty recommendations based on users’ skin tone, hair type, and body type. This makes it easy to get specific recommendations and attainable inspiration. Further, in 2021 Pinterest banned all weight loss ads from the platform, meanwhile, other apps still consistently serve “thinspo” and body-checking content.

Pinterest’s algorithm doesn’t reward a “more is more” mentality. “I don't feel the pressure to constantly update my audience in real time,” says Morrobel. “There isn't a pressure to create or show up on stories every day, so as a creator, that does allow me to breathe a little bit easier.”

Elsewhere on social media, healthy boundaries are almost the antithesis of successful branding. People who post GRWMs and day-in-the-life vlogs are often rewarded with more airtime and followers — baring it all quickly turns you into an FYP darling.

But there’s a nostalgia for old-school social media’s simplicity — whether it’s yearning for MySpace’s build-your-own-aesthetic vibe or the candidness of 2014 Tumblr. Pinterest offers a similar energy. You’re not seduced to buy anything through sponsored links. Since content using a trending sound, popular hashtag, or rage-baiting comments doesn’t satisfy the algorithm there’s no quick trick to go Pinterest-viral. You can simply scroll to ease your mind. Best of all, you can exist in your own online bubble without worrying about joining a conversation you never asked to participate in.

“A lot of people have something to say on other social media platforms, and on Pinterest everyone minds their business,” Lynn says.

Other apps continue to fall out of popularity — 2023 has been dubbed the “year Twitter [X] died” and TikTok’s year-over-year growth seems to be declining as of February 2024. Interestingly, both sites thrive off retweets, replies, opinion sharing, and comments section conversations.

Within the ever-evolving online landscape, Mallard hopes Pinterest continues to flourish as a platform for self-exploration without the extra noise.

“We want to be the one place online where we’re inspiring people to imagine possibilities for their own lives, not just watch the lives of others or argue with people or get distracted into oblivion,” Mallard says. “And as it turns out, we've become kind of a rarefied option.”