It seems like every time we look at the news, there’s another terrible story of a tween or teen being bullied on social media. Their vulnerability, combined with relentless tormenting from their peers even drives some to suicide. It’s an unthinkable tragedy for young people and their parents. Yet social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter are here to stay, and parents are hard-pressed to keep their kids from participating.
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The need for a positive, uplifting and empowering social media hub for teens and tweens was the inspiration behind We Heart It, an online scrapbooking site similar to Pinterest and Tumblr, but with a particular appeal to young users. We Heart It (the “heart” in the logo is the ubiquitous heart symbol) was launched in 2011, one year after Pinterest, with a goal of encouraging users—membership is free—to “heart” photos and images that inspire them and tell the story of who they are, what they like and love, and what they aspire to in the future. It’s been called the “visual ID” and differs from Pinterest in that it focuses more on images, rather than on DIY crafts, cooking, hobbies and fashion.
We Heart It has also been referred to as the “anti-Facebook” because it’s about connecting new people who share the same aesthetics and interests, rather than connecting with old and existing friends. The site appeals to the 16-24 year old demographic, who may be more comfortable expressing themselves with images than with the words, bios and status updates that are the norm on Facebook. On We Heart It, they don’t post status updates or “selfies,” but images they find—from photos to illustrations to videos to infographics—that express who they are.
The site has amassed more than 20 million active users—70 percent of them female—in just two years, and claims to land 1 million new users a month. That may be small change compared to Facebook’s billion-plus and Pinterest’s 70 million users, but for a newish company that doesn’t advertise, it’s pretty impressive.
A glance at the We Heart It site and its appeal to young audiences, particularly teenaged girls, is evident. The site’s home page, which features users’ latest posts, is a patchwork-quilt of photos of affirming or heartfelt sayings, beautiful places, Chanel bags, rhinestone platform stilettos and bouquets of flowers, with a heavy dose of Justin Bieber, Zac Efron and One Direction tossed in the mix. It’s easy to see why users feel safe in the relative anonymity of posting to We Heart It; there’s no format for other users to judge them, make negative comments on their images or tease or embarrass them on their pages.
For young people going through some of the most difficult, formative years of their lives—and let’s face it—the teen years are difficult and formative for all of us—We Heart It fills a valuable void not met by other social media sites. It will be interesting to see how the site grows and develops, and if it becomes the preferred social media site for teens.