Modern Psychology’s Take Our mental health professionals have taken a shot at what gives Pinterest its true staying power. Nir Eyal, a writer for TechCrunch, Forbes, and Psychology Today, has an interesting take on the topic. The “obvious secret,” he says, is Pinterest’s ability to “serve our innate desire to capture and collect, while making consuming, creating and sharing easier than ever before.” Reaffirming Eyal’s opinion are countless other industry leaders touting Pinterest as simply being a massive, user-friendly bookmarking tool. Which it is, obviously. But, there’s something more to its appeal than simple technological function.

Taking You Back To School

Remember good ol’ Abe Maslow? This post got me thinking about how his hierarchy is the perfect illustration for what Pinterest is psychologically providing users. How does our social internet world fit in this tried and true model? pin2 At the bottom we have WiFi. If an Internet connection isn’t present, we cannot move up the tiers. Now onto safety. Maslow detailed safety needs as the need for shelter and stability. What fulfills this need? LinkedIn of course! Can’t be stable without a job, right? Now, we move onto everyone’s favorite. Belonging needs are those involving being loved and feeling included. Love it or hate it, Facebook fits this tier to a T. Twitter occupies the esteem/ego tier. The needs here are those that are fulfilled by power, recognition, and prestige. Klout scores and follower/following ratios, anyone? Which brings us to self-actualization, the top and rarely reached tier. Here, needs are met through autonomy and achievement. At this stage, individuals want to encourage personal development and creativity. Enter Pinterest. FastCompany spoke with Dr. Christopher Long, a professor of consumer psychology at Ouachita Baptist University, in its article Why is Pinterest So Addictive? Dr. Long had an insightful tidbit of information: “[Pinterest] is not a place where I have to worry about being bombarded by other people’s over-sharing of un-interesting or annoying daily experience or about accidentally revealing intimate detailed of my day-to-life.” Dr. Long went on to say this frees users to show who they really are and who they really want to be. Pinterest is a place where people can show their “real self.”

Showing Your Real Self

Perhaps what softens the fear of sharing our true selves is that everyone else is sharing themselves. Over 80% of pins are re-pins; meaning that dress, recipe, or photo that you love, someone else loves too. Isn’t easier to divulge your desires when someone else goes first? The ease in which users are able to show their innermost desires might have something to do with Pinterest’s lack of actual personal information. Unlike Facebook or other social networks, Pinterest doesn’t ask for your relationship status, job title, or even what city you live in. Users are allowed to essentially anonymously share anything they love.

Showing Who You Want To Be

Take a few seconds to peruse the Pinterest popular section and you’ll get a good overview of what is occurring most frequently on Pinterest. Recipes, cute animals, crafts, vacation destinations, and wedding ideas galore. The unifying factor of the majority of the images is that few of them contain a human face. In fact, less than 20% of images on Pinterest contain faces. Possibly indicating the more personal connection to the site, there’s no need to see other people’s faces when you’re strictly trying to express your own. Either by happenstance or purposefully, Pinterest allows users to group together and operate autonomously from one another. Here’s a popular Pinterest pin, detailing “The Two Sides of Pinterest.”

two sides of pinterestPinterest offers dozens of specified categories for users to browse, and it would be a ridiculously interesting statistic to find out how many of these the average user accesses. My favorites are Humor, Women’s Fashion, and Food. Yet, another user could frequent Outdoors, Gardening, and Kids. That’s the beauty of it! You see only what you like, at your command. Unlike Facebook, which has drifted far from this concept.

Monetizing Self-Actualization

It remains to be seen how Pinterest’s implementation of Promoted Pins will alter the landscape of user attitudes. Will die-hard fans revolt at the invasion of their sacred space? How else will Pinterest evolve? The site shows no sign of slowing down with a new “Explore Interests” feature, which determines from your previous pins recommendations for new searches. I often find myself heading to Pinterest over Google if the search is right, which could present a huge opportunity for the firm.

pinterest conspiracy

Will Pinterest be around 5, 10, 15 years in the future? I’ll leave you with a quote from RJMetrics in 2012:

“Pinterest demonstrates some of the strongest user engagement, retention, and virality metrics I have ever seen in an online business.”

That was 2 years ago and still holds true today. What do you think about Pinterest’s appeal? Do you think it allows for fulfillment of our self-actualization needs?


Laurel is a member of the executive team at Stryde. She's been doing digital marketing for businesses for 10 years. Two years ago, she started set up her own ecommerce business selling baby gowns and knows the struggles of a small business owner. She loves talking about digital marketing, content, SEO, and conversion rate optimization.