How Instagram is making puzzles cool again

@figure_skating_queen

#aesthetic #satisfying #puzzle amberthyweirdest

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On Instagram, hashtags such as #puzzlelover #puzzlesofinstagram and #puzzletime rack up hundreds of thousands of views. On TikTok, videos tagged #jigsawpuzzle have been viewed more than 1.3 million times. Puzzles boast of finishing puzzles that have thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of pieces. TikTok even has a series of videos where people triumphantly place the final piece of the puzzle in its place (often tagged #satisfying).

@michmcgr

#cats #puzzle #jenniferhudson

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@xjeiselx

Just wanted to put it back in the box #jigsawpuzzle

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Puzzlers are also getting younger. According to Alfonso Alvarez-Ossorio, president of the World Jigsaw Puzzle Federation, the average age of participants in competitive puzzle tournaments around the world is now 36, but it is decreasing every year.

So why are young people now falling for puzzles?

“I think puzzles are an antidote to burnout,” says Emily Singer, marketing manager whose newsletter, Chips + Dips, tracks digital native brands and social trends. “They’re asking you to slow down, stop staring at a screen, and do a concrete task.” Puzzles are replacing adult coloring books in this regard, she suggests.

A convert is Kaylin Marcotte. Like many, she came home exhausted from a demanding job, looking to relax without having to look at another screen.

“I tried meditating, but it didn’t work for me,” she says. “But puzzles are my form of meditation. It was super relaxing. It clicked. I had the impression of being in pursuit of a structured creation. Soon, Marcotte was configuring thousand-piece puzzles on deconstructed Amazon boxes that she slid under her studio couch when she wasn’t bending over the pieces.

In many ways, Marcotte’s conversion to puzzles seems typical: people feel the strain of modern life and need something analog and quiet to help them unwind from work and the news. The puzzles also fit perfectly into the burgeoning “home economy” as young people under financial and social pressure choose to stay at home.

@codyjackson766

See you this Saturday night. #jaws #imsingle #heyladies #whiteclaw #foryou #fyp #jigsawpuzzle

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@jigsaw_jane

First part Dumbo Puzzle #puzzle #jigsawpuzzle #jigsaw

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@lizzymarie_123

Today has been a nice, low-key day for me. ☺️ #ChronicPainWarrior #marfansyndrome #jigsawpuzzle #audiobook #alwaystheforbiddencoffee

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“It’s about simple joys and reconnecting with creativity,” she says. “It’s a structured creation, less stressful than drawing on a blank sheet of paper. Coloring books have helped with that, and puzzles are the next way to go.

But Marcotte quickly grew tired of the moldy patterns she stared at for hours: tacky cats, bland landscapes or fine art prints. She participated in art exhibitions and scoured Instagram for female artists, and in November 2019 she launched her new puzzle business Jiggy. Each puzzle kit includes special glue to hold the finished puzzles together and on a mat and frame — “a 20-inch print,” she says, for people “too sentimental to tear it up.”

Jiggy is just one of many startups capitalizing on the trend. For example, Piecework Puzzles makes highly filtered, cheeky, and deliberately rotated puzzles to look good when they appear on Instagram. They come in silky boxes that could easily be mistaken for a coffee table book. One of the startup’s founders, Rachel Hochhauser, found it confusing after deciding to isolate herself in a rented cabin to relieve her own exhaustion.

Instagram’s aesthetic is also helping to push the boundaries of what a puzzle can be, with companies introducing gradient puzzles and landscapes that pop off the board. The last holiday season brought three-dimensional puzzles, color-changing elements, even double-sided puzzles, perfect for showing off on the app.