The current toast of the web is Pinterest, the visual pinboard for collecting and sharing content online. The “pinning” phenomena is spreading from its modest beginnings to appearing in national media outlets. There are over 2.5m monthly active Pinterest users on Facebook. A co-founder of the site has over 500,000 followers on Pinterest. Ron Conway (an investor in the site) remarked that Pinterest’s user growth rate is what Facebook’s was five years ago. Earlier in 2011, it was valued through venture financing at $40m and, most recently, just a few months later, at around $200m.
What is going on here?
Awesome medium-depth analysis of popular image bookmarking/sharing social media upstart Pinterest. Why is the site experiencing Facebook-like growth?
Well, for one, it’s awesome. I use it to catalog projects I want to undertake, colors I want to paint, images I want to print out and hang, presents I want to buy, or stylish products I love. Then I use those pins as launchpads to share other ideas with my friends. It’s like a little display case for all the things on the internet you like.
I’m still fascinated by the intense desire to Pin, though – and this article glosses over the “soothing” experience, to use one quotee’s words, of being an active Pinner. A few of my friends and I are now avid pinners; I usually pin about 100 things a week or so, give and take how interesting other things are.
The most fascinating part is how certain ideas, or memes, will become trends, and the trends themselves trigger revivals and squashings of new ideas. A popular pin may get pushed around various categories throughout a couple days, then die out – only to be rediscovered by some Board-hunting newbie, which can in turn trigger a rash of repins and responses from people who missed the trend at first. It’s quite an active, engaging ecosystem for images and ideas.
Still more fascinating, is the predominance of women and gay men on the site. Why would a site with semingly gender-agnostic functionality attract such specific kinds of people?
A friend suggested that the social networking effect – that is, the propogation of things that appeal to for example women, leads more women to join and even more women-focused material to be pinned – and while I think this is definitely a significant effect, I think there’s something deeper about psychology and gender going on here.
Do gay men and women simply enjoy organizing more? The prevalence of DIY/Organization/Home boards suggests an accordingly significant interest in the process of categorizing itself.
And this is my guess to why the reader described the process as “soothing”.
There is something very basic to the nuturing role many women and gay men take on, about filtering huge quantities of data (images) into functional groups. It’s empowering, both to yourself and to others; it’s expressive, as a curatorial artistic tendency; it’s fulfilling, in the appropriation of public images into a kind of “personal display case”; and above all, it’s a damn fun recreational activity, that fills empty moments of mine anywhere from on a cigarette break to waiting in line at the bank.
Looking at it from a reductive, evolutionary standpoint, my guess is that Pinterest triggers something very primal within us, something that hearkens back to a time when the physical world was as unorganized as our informational world is now. Combing through reams of noise, to find the single image that tickles your fancy, which then can be shared with others in your community, is not too dissimilar from wading through weeds for hours to find a single nutritious frut tree, which can be brought back to the family for sustenance.
But note, how it is quite different from hunting an animal for meat: the searching, the waiting for the right moment, the heavy and violent weapons which must be brought beforehand, the pursuit, and the kill – a process very different from gathering, which in contrast, seems very passive and observational. To use the author’s terms, the “discovery” of pinning is quote different from the “hunting” behavior of Googling something specific for a specific result.
What do you think of my psuedo-behavorial-analysis? Am I touching on something that sounds right to you too? Or is it just a fact of history that the site has seen such overwhelming response from women and gay men?