Is Pinterest the new old Instagram?

Gen Z is pinning what I used to post.

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Now that Instagram has admitted its glory days are over, it’s time to find a new place to post pictures of my food. —Kate

It’s easy to romanticize anything about the past as the good old days, but I do genuinely miss my Instagram feed from 2014: pictures of shadows in my college dining hall and light coming through the trees on campus mixed with Afterlight-filtered snaps of a road trip to Toronto and the latest book I was reading. None of these ever received more than 30 likes, but that didn’t yet make me feel like I should shut myself in a trash can. 

As I’ve been redefining my relationship with social media, I’ve been trying to let myself go back to that time when it was a personal experience without such intense expectations. Instagram is trying really hard not to let me. 

“We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app,” Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said in a video on Wednesday. Instead, the app is trying to be more like TikTok, promising (threatening?) to prioritize Reels in our feeds, even from people we don’t follow.

Gen Z declared Instagram dead a while back, and the app itself basically just admitted the old Instagram can’t come to the phone right now. I don’t need Instagram to be TikTok because I already have TikTok. But if Instagram won’t be Instagram, then Pinterest seems ready to take its place. 

I pretty much documented my return to Pinterest in real-time, starting during the election when I needed to counter all the uncertainty elsewhere on the internet. From there I interviewed Alexa Babakitis, a 15-year-old from California who says Pinterest is her primary app.

“Pinterest is an escape from all of the negativity and is an outlet for creativity,” she told me.

If Babakitis used Pinterest as her primary social media, then surely she wasn’t the only one. I decided to start exploring similar profiles and saw something I didn’t expect: Instagram. 

In its early days, Pinterest was much more about the discovery and distribution of content than it was about making your own. But those two strengths only compound what it’s become: a giant repository for Gen Z’s memories, inspirations, and creations. Their original pictures mingle with screenshots of Instagram Stories from Emma Chamberlain and videos, using Pinterest’s Idea Pins, of their days-in-a-life. The best parts of Instagram, TikTok, and even Twitter—I’ve seen users write their passing thoughts out in text on a picture and pin it—have combined into one platform, without the pressures of engagement and constant feedback. Pinterest, at least for now, is still just for you.

In the case of Babakitis and the other accounts I explored, their Instagram profiles were either dormant or just a source of content for their Pinterests, proving Gen Z saw the blood in the water of Instagram long before the app finally admitted it. And where Gen Z goes, the world follows.