September 22, 2023

Promoting diversity in online Spaces: Pinterest’s bold step towards inclusivity

Did you know that 40% of teenagers report that social media causes them to worry about body image? In an age where social media platforms often perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards, Pinterest is stepping up to challenge this status quo. The company is harnessing the power of AI and machine learning to celebrate diversity in body types, aiming to make every user feel seen and included. This groundbreaking move is not only reshaping the way we perceive beauty but also highlighting the significance of representation and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in online spaces.

What to know about Pinterest’s work towards an inclusive platform

Pinterest is introducing AI algorithms capable of recognizing diverse body types, an initiative powered by machine learning trained on over 5 billion images of people. The goal is clear: to promote and celebrate diverse body types and make users feel more included in the platform’s content. This technology works by presenting ‘models’ or images of people with similar body types to the user when they’re searching for outfit inspiration, based on keywords the user searches. 

For example, if a student looks up “Halloween costumes for short, medium-build women with black hair,” Pinterest will present the user with images of women that fit most accurately under that description. This is one way Pinterest is working to normalize all body types, tailor to the needs of all of its users, and attempt to minimize self-consciousness as a result of social media.  

To address the new AI additions to Pinterest, Annie Ta, Head of Pinterest’s Inclusive Product Team spoke on the social platform’s vision: 

 “Our mission is to help people feel inspired, and you can’t feel inspired unless you’re actually feeling like you were included in the product experience.”

This move by Pinterest is a great step in not just talking about change, but actually making it happen. Their commitment to reshaping societal beauty norms and fostering a more inclusive online environment reveals how important it is to promote positive body imaging for students. By displaying a variety of body types by default, Pinterest is ensuring that all users feel represented. This move comes on the heels of Pinterest’s earlier efforts to recognize different skin tones and hair patterns.

How Educators Can Help Students Navigate This Topic

PBS recently conducted interviews with students across the country to get their perspectives on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the media. Several students reported that not seeing themselves represented in elements of pop culture affects their mental health. A junior at Etiwanda High School in California even stated: 

“It just makes you feel like, ‘Why don’t I see anybody like me?’ [It] kind of brings your self-esteem down.”

For students exploring social media, seeing images of models and influencers who look nothing like them can make them feel like they’re not supposed to look the way they do, which isn’t the case. As a result, knowing how to positively navigate the complex world of social media and body image is a crucial skill for students. Here are some ways educators can take a page out of Pinterest’s playbook and help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own classrooms:

  1. Control your feed: What students see on social media is often a highly curated image or video that someone puts in a lot of effort to post, including filters, music, and backgrounds. If following someone on social media is harming your self-image, remind students they can control what they see on social media by choosing who to follow and who not to follow. 
  2. Celebrate Diversity: Highlight the importance of diversity and representation in media. Showcase positive examples and role models who challenge traditional beauty norms.
  3. Promote Self-Confidence: Encourage students to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Help them recognize that beauty isn’t just about how you look, but it is how you act, what you value, and how you treat yourself and others. 

In the #WinAtSocial Strike A Balance lesson: Analyzing representation balance in the latest media we are consuming, 76% of students agreed that representation in literature, movies, and social media impacts the roles they play in life and the goals they set for themselves. This feedback highlights the impact that inclusion in the media has on students across the globe. By discussing the significance of diversity and representation in online spaces, educators can equip students with the tools they need to navigate the digital world with confidence and critical thinking.

To learn more strategies on how to implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the classroom, check out The Social Institute’s Playbook on DEI and the impact it has on your students, on and offline. For more lessons on empowering your students to Play to Their Core and make responsible, high-character decisions online, request a demo for #WinAtSocial today!

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