Why Are We So Obsessed With Pin-spiration? The Psychology Behind Pinterest

“Don't count the days, make the days count.” “Dreams don't work unless you do.” “What would you do if you weren't afraid?” “Enjoy the little things.” “Doing what you like is freedom, liking what you do is happiness.” “Be so happy that when others look at you, they become happy, too.”

No, these quotes aren't being spoken by a therapist or motivational speaker, they were found squeezed between images of creamy pastel colored cupcakes, glowing mason jars on picnic tables, and periwinkle sparkly skirts on the image heavy social sharing site Pinterest.

Recently, the New York Times took note of a trend that's been sweeping the boards of digital platform; despite the fact that it was founded in images, there's been a surge of typed out inspirational slogans.

According to Repinly, the most popular boards on Pinterest are currently: 1) Elephants with 3,079,449 followers 2) Babies with 3,042, 306 followers and 3) DIY with 2,449,019 followers. Also among the list? A board called “Delicious,” “Wedding Gifts,” and another called “Happy Valentine's Day.”

But within these boards, a typographer/philosopher/graphic designer's dream exists — a smattering of uplifting quotes account for 10% of Pinterest's content. With millions of people pinning every day, that's quite a bit of “fortune cookie advice” going around.

This, for example, has 913 repins:

The Times simply pointed out the trend, how it mostly exists on Pinterest (currently the fastest growing social media platform), and it's “group therapy” feel. But after reading it, I was left wondering: why? 

Why does it feel like we need to be inspired more than ever?

And why as a nation (the United States currently is the number one user of Pinterest), are we so obsessed with feeling inspired?

It goes beyond the snappy fonts laid atop dreamy clouds, and has more to do with the trajectory of the role of social media and blogs within our society.

Not long ago we were a nation thoroughly enthralled with the idea of reality.

Reality television filled our homes and it obliterated privacy barriers. Then blogs picked up steam, giving a “real” look into subjects that were often filtered by editors or publishers. From there, social media took off, giving real-time updates of friends', and more often acquaintances', lives.

While this trend still exists, it's definitely reached a status of a slow simmer from it's former fiery flame (brands have tapped into social media and blogs to market themselves, and these days most reality television is scripted). Instead, Gen Y has started moving back toward the element of fantasy — and Pinterest, along with it's reassuring and happiness-inducing pats on the back, are a direct result.

So, why is this?

It may have something to do with the deflated feeling we collectively feel as a country. When the recession hit in 2007, many were left without jobs or prospects — our vision of the future, and reality, was bleak. While job creation has increased, many still took major pay cuts or are now responsible for more duties without more pay.

If you think about it, a similar situation happened when the Great Depression hit in the early 1930's: even though Americans did not have enough money for food, they would scrape pennies to save to go to the movies, it was their way to have a moment of fantasy, away from the tough reality they faced every morning when they woke up.

It seems like now our fantasy is a little different.

Our fantasy is to reshape our reality. We want someone to pat us on the back to say “good job,” or “hang in there,” or even, quite simply, “YOLO.” A boost in our ego, perhaps.

On the IFB pin-board, for example, Wise Words “because even fashion bloggers sometimes need a pick-me-up!”, followed by Fashion Blogging Tips & Tricks, which also offers advice with fancy typography and alluring photos, are the two most popular boards.

But how does this affect you?

As a blogger, analyzing these trends can work to your advantage. Tapping into the consciousness of “wants and needs” of your audience can help you create content that has a more fruitful return in engagement.

How do you use trends to create engagement with your blog and social media?

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10 Responses

  1. Juliette Gold

    This is quite brilliant, I must say. Our reality really has changed, I just never figured out exactly how to put the new state into words. But I guess you make an excellent point. We want to feel encouraged, especially now, when life is very self-absorbed: we tweet, post, instagram and talk about ourselves, and only ourselves, all the time.

    I’m going to pponder a bit more, and then maybe mummble again [:

  2. Rita

    very interesting article. Makes me consider this issue. While I think people still want content they can identify with, yes, I agree they may also want to see things that can take them away from their reality for a min or two. I don’t think people are exactly after fantasy, just other realities. Becausee my content results largely from my own needs it is both my way of imagining how it could be and sharing with others such alternatives. Eye candy that inspires…

  3. Robin

    I pin for inspiration because as a stylist and photo art director, I am always looking around. I always had a “swipe file” with hundreds of pages torn out of magazines and it took up half a room. Online pinning is virtually the same thing. Now though people judge you by what you pin not what you create. So someone else’s photo or styling becomes something that you are lauded for if you have pinned it. Kind of strange, no?

  4. Breigha

    I love pinterest, I find that it really does provide so much inspiration for home decor all the way to personal style. If I am ever feeling uninspired in my style I just hop on pinterest to get my brain going again!

  5. Rachel

    Very interesting with the numbers of the top viewed on Pinterest. I just love Pinterest, I feel like anyone can log in and just let their imagination run wild! It’s changed so many things, for instance the wedding world…so many more creative ideas at weddings! Just love it


  6. Ana

    I wondered what the ‘next big thing’ would and failed to notice the reality vs. fantasy dichotomy being played out in Pinterest’s surge in popularity.

  7. Kier Mellour

    A few of my pins have been repinned a lot.. and those always lead to clicks to my blog. I have been trying to get IFB to repin me as a SoCal blogger, but no luck… Whats up?

    With Love From Hollywood,
    Fashion Addict

  8. Maria V

    Pinterest is a huge traffic referral for me… thousands viewers every month! Not to mention, one of my DIY posts has been repinned over 300 times and still, even after 6 months since it has been published its one of the most popular posts on my blog.

    Get on Pinterest darlings! ASAP!