Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pinning to tell our stories

Hans Christian Anderson Statue, Central Park
My streams were filled with links to the Column Five/Flowtown infoposter "Why is Pinterest so addictive" last week. This only added to the traditional and social media conversation about the conversation. Naturally people are hungry for answers to this question, given the accelerated growth Pinterest has seen and it's enviable ability to cultivate attention. According to ComScore, we're now talking ~18M Uniques spending about 3+minutes per day!

But what I got from the infoposter is really*how* Pinterest serves as a vehicle for the addiction. Flowtown does point out attributes like "refuge" and "get popular" and as Mashable says, posits a hypothesis around "digital hoarding," but for the most part, the infoposter is centered on the site's design and simplicity, which enable participation. What's missing is an analysis of the psychology of its active participation to explain the 'why'.

To me, its stats are the manifestation of a great value to users-- some need being met and/or other fundamental psychological processes at play.

Taking "addiction" lightly, pinning is a way of expressing who we are and the stories we tell. Pinterest = Narrative construction. It's an easy-to-use instrument to establish our identity --to ourselves and others.

I realize it feels comical or to some, superficial to think of how pictures of home goods, arts & crafts, style, and food, are helping us make sense of ourselves and communicate that to others, but these are the exact collections of artifacts we've used to tell our aggregate historical and cultural stories time and again. As an aside, spending money is also a means of emotional regulation, particularly (albeit with limited evidence) for women.

The idea I'm drawing from is Dan McAdam's "Life Stories," from his integrative theory of personality. While some personality psychologists endorse models of fixed traits, McAdams sees traits as the outline only-- he explains that we're constantly stringing together traits, fleshing them out, and personalizing by adding to our 'story'. This, in turn, evolves our identity, guides behavior and helps orient ourselves socially. It gives us purpose.

To McAdams, we're constantly creating, telling and revising our stories. It's an ongoing process that, in my view, Pinterest facilitates. Check out McAdams' book, read the review, reference his papers. If nothing else, think about your unfolding story, or your role in your customers' stories as you pin.

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