I’m not a fan of most major social platforms. Reddit’s always been too militaristic about free speech for my taste; TikTok is full of stomach-churning viral trends, Twitter’s riddled with hate speech, and Facebook is, well, Facebook. So when I first heard about PlantLife — a plant-centric social platform that rolled into the iOS app store on Wednesday — my first reaction was scepticism; after all, any social network (even one dedicated to cacti and succulents) must carry some sort of nightmarish side.
Well, after poking around at the app for a bit, it looks like I was wrong. PlantLife features a TikTok-y kind of feel, where you vertically scroll through a feed of full-screen clips and pics featuring plants of all shapes and sizes and various shades of green. In other words — at least if you’re a plant parent like me — it feels… very wholesome.
After doing the usual sign-up jig that comes with every new platform (like choosing a screen name and an appropriately plant-themed picture), the first thing that PlantLife asks is what kind of plant lover you are. Are your plants indoor or outdoor? Are you a beginner to the world of horticulture, or are you an advanced plant dad? The app also asks new users what kind of plant-y content they want to see as they scroll through their feed — are they into gardening and sustainability? Hiking and camping? CBD? Landscaping? “Foraging?” All of the above?
The app is also seemingly meant to function as a community forum of sorts. When you post a picture of your plant babies, you’re allowed to make a note of what kind of plant you’re posting (a golden barrel cactus in my case), how old the plant is (three years), and its description (prickly). Based on what you’re asking about your little green child (or, uh, cactus), your fellow plant-obsessed followers can offer you advice about watering, soil, or whatever planty questions your planty brain can think of. Got a weird fungus growing on your Monstera that you can’t identify? Upload a picture to the platform and undoubtedly, someone in the green-thumbed throngs can offer some words of advice.
There are ads, of course. While scrolling past people’s pictures of leafy cast-iron plants and mini bonsai trees, I got ads for no less than two different plant-delivery services. If you’ve ever delved into the plant-centric side of Instagram, the ads feel pretty similar: pretty, overpriced, and designed to be snapped for your social media platform of choice, be it Instagram, or Snapchat, or PlantLife.
And if you talk to the company’s founders, they make it clear that plant-centric commerce is going to be core to the company’s plan to uh, grow. “There are a lot of these small nurseries out there that don’t have e-commerce,” PlantLife CEO Leslie Mullins told Fast Company about the app. “So we want to make sure we’re also using [PlantLife] as a component to reduce the digital divide within this industry.”
Is there a digital divide in the plant world? Are there that many online plant stores struggling to reach that many customers? Who knows! But the more PlantLife’s creators try to turn the app into just another ad-riddled social platform, the more it’ll feel as shitty to use as those same platforms — even if this one happens to have a few more plants.