Soul Searching on SoulPancake
by Laura Mooney, Arts Editor
When was the last time a social media website asked you about your deep dark secrets? Or about your personal aspirations for your life? It is not often that you hear questions such as this on Facebook or Twitter, whose main focus is telling you what your friends are up to without you, and providing an outlet to tell the world that you went to Starbucks for the tenth time this week. While these social sites focus mainly on the basics of your life, SoulPancake chooses to take it a step further. The site combines the fun of a social website with deeper and more insightful purposes, often asking deep questions and allowing you to be fully in control of your creativity involving the website. One thing SoulPancake does have in common with other social media websites is that once you sign up and begin, it is nearly impossible to stop.
SoulPancake was created by actor Rainn Wilson, famous for his role as Dwight Schrute in The Office, and was launched in early 2010. Wilson created the website in order to give a platform for users to explore spirituality, creativity, religion, and philosophy, all while maintaining the social aspects that made Facebook and Twitter popular. The basic idea is that the users were able to ask any question or post photos and videos of anything to do with the more in depth questions in life. While this aspect of sharing and posting personal media is nothing new, the fact that users are essentially the only ones controlling the content on the website is what makes SoulPancake different, and much more entertaining than any other typical social media outlet. When I first heard of this seemingly undiscovered website (which already has over 100 000 active users), being the social media addict that I am, I knew I had to investigate and see what this so-called philosophic place for the 21st century was all about.
When you first arrive on SoulPancake’s welcome page, you are greeted with bright colours, a flashy header, and backgrounds like you have never seen before. Each time you refresh the page you are introduced to a new hand drawn background featuring creatures such as an eyeball with arms and legs, or (my personal favorite) a cardinal with a jetpack rocketing through space. While viewing these strange creations, you just know they must have spawned from the deep dark depths of someone’s brain. After a bit of research, I discovered that the person responsible for these wonderfully eerie pieces of art is a man by the name of Mike Mitchell, an artist from Austin, Texas who provides all of the artwork for SoulPancake. It was initially these peculiar and beautiful backgrounds that drew me in, and made me want to explore the site even further to see what other strange and wonderful things I would find.
Once the initial routine account set up is taken care of, you are able to start exploring SoulPancake fully. You have three main options of where to begin your journey: videos, activities, or conversations. I first clicked on the tab marked videos, and was taken to SoulPancake’s YouTube channel where they have partnered with some of the most popular Youtubers (including Kid President), showcasing their videos as well as the creator’s own content. Videos like “Talk to Your Ten Year Old Self” and “Elevator Joy Bomb” are upbeat and positive, pushing a message of gratification and happiness and how to execute that in your everyday life. The videos often feature the creator of SoulPancake himself, Rainn Wilson, in segments called “Metaphysical Milkshake” where he interviews actors and musicians in the back of his van. However, instead of being the typical celebrity interview you see on talk shows, Wilson asks the guests questions about their views and opinions of the world, engaging them in ways not done in many other interviews. The videos section of the SoulPancake website is hours of entertainment and leaves you feeling just a little bit happier with yourself and the world with each video you watch.
Although the next two areas of SoulPancake are technically two different tabs, they basically provide the same type of service. In the activities and conversations sections the main purpose is to engage your brain and explore the tasks set by other members of the community. Conversations allows users to post any question they want to start a discussion about, then other users can respond with their own answer or input. When I first joined SoulPancake I posted three questions on my profile asking simple questions about the other users’ favourite books and movies, and within ten minutes I had over 40 responses. While some were straight to the point, others took the time to get very in depth, going into detail about why they loved their favourite book and how it made them feel when they read it. It was incredibly entertaining and even a bit moving to go through and read all of the responses. Activities, on the other hand, still includes asking questions, but it expands creativity even more, allowing users ask questions about a shared link or ask for photographs of favourite things. One of the first things I came across when scrolling through this section was a thread asking to post a photo of your ideal morning. Where you would be, what you would be eating, and who you would be with. The question was so simplistic and yet the photos being posted were artistic and so well thought out you would think they were straight out of a magazine. Each new thread I came across was creative in its own way, and it only increased my desire to delve more into this mysterious website.
After scrolling through at least 20 pages of material on the activities page of SoulPancake, it finally struck me as to why this website stands apart from all of the other social media sites. It is the wonderful combination of people and the right type of platform that makes SoulPancake so different. On SoulPancake, there is no fear that what you post will be mocked or chastised in any way. No matter how personal and meaningful the question you ask or the response you post is, others having replied in a similar way. The beauty is also in the questions themselves. On my journey through the site I saw questions from as simple as my own “what is your favourite movie?” all the way up to having to describe your perfect God in ten words. The responses to each question feel as though you are sitting right in the room with the stranger and they are confessing to you their innermost thoughts and feelings. SoulPancake provides an outlet where people young and old can be their true selves. Whether they choose to do it anonymously or not is up to them, but it gives you a sense that you are with like- minded people who really understand and will not judge you. Even the negative “troll” comments can hardly be seen as destructive. On my profile I asked a question about first loves, how old you were and how did you know? While the majority of the responses were incredibly sweet and insightful, one commenter told a story of how he was in a department store and had love at first sight with a mannequin. He went on to describe how he and the doll now had tiny plastic children and had to hide their love from the world because no one understood. Even though the user’s response was essentially mocking my question, I still laughed my head off when I first read it. Even the trolls are upbeat and positive on SoulPancake!
While SoulPancake may never reach the status of Facebook and Twitter in terms of popular social media sites, it has found its home amongst those looking to get a little bit more out of a website. The pure honesty you find yourself pouring into the site is something I personally have never experienced with anything else, and it really does feel as though you are telling your deepest darkest secrets to non-judgmental friends from all over the world. So the next time you are browsing the Internet, give SoulPancake a try, and you just might be surprised at what you learn about yourself and the world around you.