Pinterest is one of many social media platforms out there, but it operates unlike any other. The platform describes itself as “the visual bookmarking tool that helps you discover and save creative ideas,” (Krauss Whitbourne, 2015). Rather than sharing our day-to-day lives in text captions, posting personal, curated photos and videos to your feeds, and consuming everyone else’s shared content, Pinterest encourages creativity by sharing photos curated from the user’s tastes and preferences.
Communication on the platform acts in the form of mutual interest, where one user posts or pins a photo to their chosen board, and other users can interact and express a mutual interest by also choosing to save the photo on their personal Pinterest boards. The interaction becomes “I like this photo, you like this photo, we like this photo,” as opposed to the nuanced discussions on other platforms (Folse n.d.).
Once you’ve pinned a photo, the algorithm presents you with similar photos, eventually creating a bubble of what you like as an individual. This makes the platform all about the user and not about everyone else, making it a tailored experience for each user on the platform.
Pinterest can be used for a wide variety of interests, projects, and events, but there are a few common links for how users utilize the platform. Popular uses for Pinterest include creative projects from knitting and painting, saving food recipes, discovering your fashion style, designing your home, or planning important events in life like weddings.
The Psychology Behind Pinterest
If all of this sounds familiar, you may be wondering why Pinterest is so effective at keeping your attention, or why many people have little to no gripes with the platform—it’s just photos, after all. Here are a few reasons why Pinterest keeps users engaged and coming back for more:
Pinterest Inspires Creativity and Action
A place to create vision boards, find recipes, plan events, and more, Pinterest inspires creativity. It allows your mind to wander and discover new ways of doing things that apply to your interests. Pinterest also inspires people to take action. Activities and interests on the platform directly connect to people’s lives offline, which can encourage users to take what they find online into their real life. Whether it be trying out a new recipe, an arts and crafts project, exercise tips and routines, or how to decorate their home, users are more likely to apply what they find on Pinterest to their real-life routines since it directly aligns with their interests (Folse, n.d.).
Pinterest Mimics Collecting and Scrapbooking
A common activity for humans is to collect items they like or find sentimental value from, such as collectible cards, seashells, or postcards. Pinterest also has a similar collecting and scrapbooking effect as users can pin photos to different boards to go back to. Rather than other platforms like Facebook where users will hand out “likes” more often, Pinterest users are likely to be more careful when selecting pins for their boards (Dishman, 2012).
Pinterest Creates a Sense of Community
While other social media platforms create a sense of community through sharing up-to-date information about their personal lives or commentary on social events, Pinterest creates a sense of belonging through mutual interests. Users often curate their boards to represent their hopes and dreams in life, so when users repin a photo to their board it may boost their self-esteem and increase their sense of belonging to a community with shared interests (Folse, n.d.).
Pinterest Provides an Escape From Our Everyday Lives
Pinterest captivates us by taking the focus off of our mundane, everyday life and instead allows users to picture their ideal selves. The platform allows users to carefully curate their boards to reflect how they want certain aspects of their life to look. This can include what clothes they want to wear, what their daily routine would look like, what meals they can make, what their house looks like, and more. Essentially, users can spend hours searching for photos that represent their dream life.
Other social media platforms have photos where users could do the same though, so what makes Pinterest the go-to platform for fantasizing about your ideal self? Pinterest makes it easier to achieve a sense of escapism by minimizing the user’s cognitive load. Pictures are much quicker to process than text, and the platform doesn’t prompt you to answer any questions about your day or to think—in fact, Pinterest just prompts you to feel. The platform presents you with images and the only action you're encouraged to take is to pin what makes you happy and scroll past the rest (Savitz, 2012).
Pinterest Offers an Online Creative Outlet
One aspect social media users can sometimes feel is the lack of a creative outlet. Platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have a plethora of creativity, but it's often created for others to view and like, not necessarily for the sake of being creative. Meanwhile, Pinterest encourages users to be creative without the idea they have to share that you were—and if you do choose to share, there is no pressure for the content to perform well or be liked. The creativity you share on Pinterest will find its way to those it does appeal to, without the performance aspect of other social platforms.
Additionally, Pinterest as a creative platform allows virtual exploration. Users can explore ideas for their projects, projects they didn’t know would interest them, as well as explore their identity through images, similar to how a person may scrapbook or create physical vision boards. This virtual exploration taps into a user's desire to learn, create, try new things, and express themselves through their interests–an aspect of life that can feel lacking for many, both on and offline (Krauss Whitbourne, 2015).
Pinterest Is About the Individual User
Another reason Pinterest is appealing to users is that the platform focuses on the individual user rather than users as a group. On other social platforms, you’ll encounter various life updates from other users whether or not that is how you would like to use the platform. Whereas on Pinterest, users are given refuge from viewing their peers' lives and feeling pressured to share updates of their own. The platform becomes a place that the user wants to engage in with just imagery they want to see. The pins on their boards begin to represent who a person believes is their real self, or their idealized self, without all the noise from the rest of the world (Dishman, 2012).
A common sentiment social media users often share when a platform malfunction occurs is that they would be better off without the platform anyways and threaten to leave when any technical mishap occurs. The same isn’t always shared when Pinterest users come across technical difficulties. Users on Pinterest typically refresh their feeds and hope their boards are not gone (Folse, n.d.). Since the platform is focused on the wants of the user, they often find more value on Pinterest, many of which have spent years curating their boards. Losing a board on Pinterest may feel like losing a scrapbook, a photo album, or another item of sentimental value to some users.
If your business is looking to incorporate Pinterest into its repertoire of social media, contact us for a consultation and we’ can discuss how to make the platform work for you!
Pinterest’s Obvious Secret (Savitz, 2012).
The Psychology Behind Pinterest (Folse, n.d.).
What's Really Going on in the Psychology of Pinterest (Krauss Whitbourne, 2015).
Why Pinterest Is So Addictive (Dishman, 2012).