A Gen Z influencer on her Pinterest 'paradise'
Fifteen-year-old Alexa Babakitis is a new type of creator on an unlikely platform.
If Pinterest were to live on while Instagram and Twitter burned to the ground, I wouldn’t hate it. —Kate
Whenever I tell people I started using Pinterest again, they look at me the same way they do when I tell them I’m rereading Harry Potter. (I’m rereading Harry Potter.) Like I’ve committed some grievous sin against the fabric of space and time by tampering with the past instead of living in the future. For Pinterest, at least, it’s one in the same.
I first used the site in its early days, stealing moments during college summer internships to browse knitting patterns and recipes, marveling at the endless possibilities it displayed (Pinterest helped popularize Aza Raskin’s infinite scroll). As I grew up and moved on from the platform, I assumed Pinterest went the way of Facebook, with geriatric Millennials and Gen Xers clogging up the feed with minion memes and sketchy diet advice. But when I returned to the platform as a way to self-soothe during the election, I found that wasn’t the case. Pinterest is actually home to a new type of creator—and she’s 15.
Alexa Babakitis, from Laguna Hills, California, is on all the expected apps (Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat), but tells me that her time is spent almost exclusively on Pinterest. Her idea pins—a Pinterest feature similar to Instagram Stories—began popping up all over my feed when I returned to the app. Her guides for things like “How To Be Productive” and “Things To Do In Quarantine,” all written in a groovy, bubbly font featuring Tumblresque images with text over the top, would regularly receive hundreds if not thousands of likes. Babakitis herself has 5,500 followers.
I never thought of Pinterest as a place to grow an audience, since you’re hardly ever putting a face to the content that appears on your feed. You don’t really hear about Pinterest stars the way you hear about YouTubers and TikTokkers, but Babakitis has arguably put in the same amount of work, keeping up with shifting aesthetic trends and teaching herself photo editing. It’s her, and creators like her, that likely contributed to Pinterest’s explosive growth last year, with Gen Z users having grown by 50 percent year-over-year.
I wanted to hear a little more about Pinterest as an overlooked Gen Z creative hub, so Babakitis told me all about her love of the app over email.
When did you start using Pinterest?
To be exact, I started using Pinterest on December 17, 2018. I was amazed by all the tools and ways to express myself on the platform, so I began posting aesthetic photos from my everyday life. I shared photos of my food, my dog, my handwriting, and much more. At the time I began using Pinterest, I was in the " VSCO Girl" phase. Therefore, I edited all my posts on VSCO before sharing them to Pinterest. My content wasn't very exciting from the start and didn't gain much attention. It didn't matter to me, though, because I was having fun sharing who I was. Aside from posting my own content, I saved many ideas on my boards that included journaling, photography poses, and school hacks.
My content progressed once Pinterest released story pins (now called idea pins). I posted my first idea pin on June 19, 2020; it was a shopping haul from Brandy Melville. Later, I decided to post more engaging content [like] guides and recommendations.
How did you learn to edit photos?
I learned photo editing through YouTube tutorials in addition to experimenting with different techniques and editing platforms. Photo and video editing became a hobby of mine when I was just 10 years old. I was fascinated by niche memes and fanpage edits, so I decided to try it out. I have used so many editing apps over the years, but my favorites include Phonto, Picsart, iMovie, Vont, and Video Star. I improved my skills by practicing and gaining inspiration from successful editors/creators.
When did you start getting followers?
I noticed I started gaining an audience in August 2020. It was never my intention to attract so much attention, but my idea pin about tips to getting good grades lit the match to where I am now. Within a week of posting that how-to, I gained 500 followers. Ever since then, I have been growing rapidly and now have 5,500. That how-to allowed people to click on my account and see what other content I had posted. From there, a guide on increasing productivity from June 30, 2020 went viral. In that idea pin, I included several tips and methods to beat procrastination. I received 2.9 million impressions on that guide with 4,900 likes and 110 comments. I should probably also take my own advice from that how-to! It never clicked that I was a large influence until my friends began mentioning how fast my platform was growing.
How would you describe your followers? Do you ever interact with them?
I would describe my followers as ambitious, creative, and inquisitive. It always makes me happy to receive messages and comments from my followers. Some contact me to compliment my account and how it has helped them while others ask questions and want to learn more about the guides I create. Staying engaged with my followers allows me to show that I am open-minded and listen to what I can do to help them. By addressing their questions and comments, I can observe that I attract a curious audience with a drive to succeed in life. I also don't see them as followers but as supporters. Interacting with them overjoys me because it shows how much of an impact I have on the Pinterest community.
What type of content is your most popular?
Without a doubt, how-tos, guides, and recommendations are my most popular posts. My audience enjoys the advice I give and suggestions I offer. My posts are an inspiration to many; I have seen my audience imitate the editing style and topics I use. More specifically, education/productivity tips are the most popular topics on my account. My followers are attracted to learning more about getting good grades and inviting good habits into their lives.
How would you describe your account to a stranger?
A paradise for anyone who wants to make the most out of life. My platform shows how life is beautiful and influences people that they can be whatever they want to be. I fill my account with only the good stuff: traveling, fashion, affirmations, recipes, school hacks, journaling, etc. When I see my account, I see another universe: one that is extraordinary and allows me the freedom to express myself. In the real world, I constantly feel judged and pressured into being someone I'm not, so I can impress others. Pinterest is an escape from all of the negativity and is an outlet for creativity. The vibe of my account is non-judgemental and is a guide to becoming your best self.
What do you enjoy most about Pinterest?
Everything. Most of all, Pinterest inspires me to find my style and my self-identity. Without the platform, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I have been through several phases—VSCO, indie, kawaii, and more. I can thank Pinterest for [me] encountering these phases because it has allowed me a variety of options to see what I like. I finally settled on my style of the coconut girl/"that girl" aesthetic. Creating idea pins is also another benefit to the platform. I can express myself while helping others and engaging with people who have the same interests as me. I love the aspect of creating/saving pins and organizing them onto boards. It makes me feel like my life is together. Turning on some good music and scrolling through Pinterest is like free therapy. It's my sanctuary away from my anxious thoughts. Pinterest has had such a large impact on my life, and I couldn't be more grateful that I came across the app in 2018.