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Pinterest Launches “Havens” to Address Mental Health—Will it Help?

Woman lying on couch scrolling on her smartphone

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Key Takeaways

  • In honor of World Mental Health Day, Pinterest announced a new initiative, Havens, designed to improve user's well-being.
  • This move by Pinterest follows steps by TikTok to create a better environment.
  • While these moves can create more positive experiences, experts stress the importance of monitoring your mental health while using social media.

In connection with World Mental Health Day, social media platform Pinterest recently announced the launch of a new feature, Havens. Pinterest reports that the online space will serve as an “anti-burnout oasis” and feature relaxing imagery, Pinterest Creators’ Idea Pins focused on rest, and co-curated content from the employees of Pinside Out, the company’s “internal mental health community.” According to the announcement, content may include anything from journal prompts to imagery of stunning waterfalls.

This release comes during a time when social media companies are slowly being held accountable for the impact their products are having on the mental health of the public, particularly in teenage girls. But could these actions actually be beneficial?

The Promise of "Positive Platforms"

The company credits Pinterest Predict’s trend “Invest In Rest” as a source of inspiration for the initiative. Pinterest also notes the shift in what users search on the website. In the past year, the frequency has increased of the terms “Sunday reset routine” by seven times, “destressing tips” by 12.7 times, and “self care quotes mental health” by four times. 

Havens also includes an in-person installation on Chicago’s South Side designed by local artist Dwight White. According to the company, it brings the “anti-burnout oasis to life” and includes physical pins. Pinterest is also donating $80,000 to three community-led organizations in Chicago. 

“Positive platforms allow emotionally healthy information to be accessible via social media. It also can provide support and relief for various topics such as grief, financial support, mental health. Sometimes, people don’t realize the negative impact that the news, gossip columns, and health alerts have on their mental health,” says ​​Miyume McKinley, MSW, LCSW, a psychotherapist and founder of Epiphany Counseling, Consulting & Treatment Services.“Platforms such as Haven can offer a positive outlet and support to people as they surf social media.” 

​​Miyume McKinley, MSW, LCSW

Everyone has different triggers and experiences that will affect how technology will impact them. However, platforms that prompt mental and emotional health are helping to break the cycle of negativity.

— ​​Miyume McKinley, MSW, LCSW

Pinterest isn’t the first social media platform making shifts to better its users’ well-being. The introduction of Havens comes on the heels of TikTok announcing its new mental health features and resources. These include new guidelines on sharing mental health experiences, a safety center guide for eating disorders, and resource suggestions when searching topics such as suicide. 

While these moves are promising, can they remove social media’s consistently documented negative mental health impact? “Social media can cause individuals to devalue their bodies, careers, and lives,” says Dr. Leela R. Magavi, a psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry + MindPath Care Centers. “It can lead to extreme feelings of loneliness and insufficiency. Looking at individuals’ pictures and liking them or loving them can create false, transient feelings of connectedness, which do not and cannot take the place of speaking with and spending time with loved ones. Over time, this can create debilitating feelings of loneliness.” 

A recent Facebook data leak is one of the most recent examples demonstrating this effect. A report from the Wall Street Journal claims that the company has long been aware — and chose not to disclose — that Facebook-owned Instagram can be harmful to teenage girls. In one internal presentation, employees at Facebook explained that 13% of British and 6% of American adolescent users who had suicidal thoughts blamed Instagram. Girls weren’t the only ones affected, with the Journal reporting Facebook discovered that 14% of U.S. boys believed Instagram hurt their self-esteem.

In recent years, studies have revealed similar findings to those in the Facebook leak. A 2019 study from the American Journal of Health Promotion clearly shows the harmful impact of adverse experiences on social media. Looking at students aged 18 to 30, researchers found that every 10% increase in participants’ negative experiences led to a 13% increase in feelings of isolation. However, positive experiences didn’t reduce feelings of isolation.

Helpful Steps To Improve The Connection Between Social Media and Well-Being

Overall, steps like those of Pinterest and TikTok appear to be a cautious step in the right direction. “Everyone has different triggers and experiences that will affect how technology will impact them. However, platforms that prompt mental and emotional health are helping to break the cycle of negativity,” explains McKinley.

Regularly evaluating how you feel is critical when it comes to social media, as each person’s experience and responses will differ. “Individuals with specific temperaments or psychiatric conditions may be more likely to experience the negative effects of social media exposure regardless of how much time they spend doomscrolling. These individuals may consistently experience ruminative thinking or depressive symptoms while browsing through social media platforms,” says Magavi. “Other individuals may not be affected by isolated posts and may find it enjoyable to browse through humorous posts or calming to view Pinterest’s Havens.”

Leela R. Magavi, MD

Looking at individuals’ pictures and liking them or loving them can create false, transient feelings of connectedness, which do not and cannot take the place of speaking with and spending time with loved ones.

— Leela R. Magavi, MD

Social media companies want users to stay on their sites, but they also have a responsibility to ensure a safe, healthy environment. “Companies can create posts to remind individuals to take a break to stretch or engage in deep breathing,” suggests Magavi. “I believe it is of utmost importance for corporations to create and maintain ethics committees to ensure decisions made for profit do not directly or indirectly exacerbate individuals’ mental or physical health. I believe these ethics committees should be involved in decision-making and have the ability to revoke and even report deleterious changes.”

What This Means For You

On a personal level, McKinley recommends monitoring how much time you spend on social media (most phones have screen time alerts available). Take a break if you’re feeling anxious or depressed, and try to determine what triggered those feelings for you. If you’re scrolling for a long time, practice 20 seconds of deep breathing every 20 minutes while turned away from your screen, adds Magavi. 

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  2. Primack BA, Karim SA, Shensa A, Bowman N, Knight J, Sidani JE. Positive and negative experiences on social media and perceived social isolationAm J Health Promot. 2019;33(6):859-868. doi:10.1177/0890117118824196