This is an interesting case study on how minor changes and policy adjustments, in relative terms, can have a major impact on user behavior online.
Last year, as part of an expanded push to bolster body positivity within its application, Pinterest banned all ads with weight loss language and imageswhich was a significant standpoint within the broader, visually-focused social media sphere.
So what impact did it have, and did it help improve discussion and engagement with the application?
According to new data from Pinterest, it had an impact, with ‘weight loss’ searches decreased by 20% (May 2022 versus July 2021), while search for ‘fast and healthy meals‘ is on 65xen ‘healthy food motivation‘Searches jumped 13x.
As on Pinterest:
“When we implemented our weight loss advertising ban a year ago, our hope was to continue building our platform as a safe and welcoming environment where all Pinners feel free to be who they are, regardless of body shape or – size. Now, a year later, we are seeing a positive response from users, which could have the real impact of such a policy on online behavior and perceptions.
Of course, some of these results are relative to overall usage (Pinterest had 444 million active users in July last year, and now has 433 million) and the specific search terms used for comparison.
But even with these factors in mind, Pinterest has highlighted some interesting usage shifts.
- “how to change your mindset” searches increased by + 50%
- “positive self-affirmation” searches increased by 5X
- “love for myself searches” increased by + 36%
- “accept your body quotes” searches increased by 3X
- “Body positivity searches” increased by 2X
- Searches with ‘kurvy body reference’ increased by 5X
It will also be somewhat influenced by broader societal trends, but it is interesting to consider the impact that Pinterest’s ban on weight loss content may have on broader engagement and interaction trends within the application.
Can seeing fewer ads that embarrass users for their size then lead to a more positive environment, where people can feel more comfortable exploring new trends and behaviors?
The results here suggest that this may be the case, which is interesting to consider in terms of broader social media trends, where brushed, heavily edited, highly staged images have become the norm for many users.
It can definitely have a negative effect on mental health. Research has shown this 32% of teenage girls felt worse about their bodies when using Instagram, as the application reinforces beauty standards that may be unattainable for many people. It is also reportedly part of the appeal of TikTok, as it is more focused on unpolished, realistic depictions of what people actually look like, but even then AR filters and effects can change appearance and have an impact.
Thus, perhaps a broader ban on weight loss advertising could be beneficial, as at least one measure to normalize representation in every application.
It seems like a small step, but as Pinterest’s statistics show, it can have a significant impact.