Why Pinterest is Addictive – A Contrarian View


Pinterest Marketing

Why Pinterest is Addictive

The Psychology of Pinterest Addiction

There was a recent infographic about why Pinterest is so popular – access it here (Why is Pinterest So Addictive? by Flowtown/Column Five). It’s a good infographic that has a lot of great points, but I think it focuses too much on the tool (Pinterest) and misses some of the underlying psychological reasons as to why Pinterest is so hot.

Here is my contrarian view of why people love Pinterest. I’m not a psychologist so this is not professional advice or guidance! Let me know what you think in the comments. Are you addicted to Pinterest?

1) We’re Digital Pack Rats

Do you love to collect things? Do you have piles of eBooks stashed away in folders? Do you like to grab all your favorite things and collect them in folders in our computer, bookmark folders, social bookmarking folders or on Pinterest boards? Yes, most of us like to collect and to store them in our little burrows. We’re digital pack rats.

2) We’re Obsessive-Compulsive

I suspect that each one of us has some obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Of course some people have major obsessive-compulsive tendencies and others might just have a bit. Pinterest is great for people who like to collect, organize and perfect their collection of boards.

3) We Have Addictive Tendencies

Similar to the above, I think that many of us have addictive tendencies. Whether is donuts, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, sex, email, Facebook or….Pinterest. Perhaps Pinterest becomes a replacement addiction for something worse. Maybe that’s a good thing!

4) We Love Eye Candy

It’s clear that people love visuals. Especially striking, strange, funny or fantastic visuals.

5) We Love “Point and Click”

Pinterest is very, very easy to use.  Once you get an invite and sign up, you can start adding boards and repinning immediately. According to one infographic I saw (see my Pinterest Articles Board for data), about 80% of the sharing on Pinterest is “re-pins”. So most people are re-pinning, not adding new content.

But even adding new content is easy. Just add the Pinterest “Pin It” button (get it here) to your browser and just browse the web and collect images or video and add to your collection!

6) We Love Being Seen As The Best Pack Rat

Just kidding. Many of us enjoying being seen as the best source of great content! A prolific content curator. Gaining followers, getting re-pins and supportive comments stimulates the “feel good” parts of our brains (maybe someone could fill in the actual technical term).

7) We Love Easy Discovery

If we had our ‘druthers’ we’d rather have good content float by right in front of our noses than to have to go and seek it out. Pinterest presents all the new content right before your eyes. What could be easier?

8) We Love Low Obligation Activities

Unlike Facebook, Twitter or Google+, Pinterest has very low expectations for things like adding comments, liking, giving credit (for good of for bad) or for following back. Pinterest doesn’t feel like a chore with a lot of social pressures (or am I wrong about this?).

That’s my take but I’m sure there’s more. I’d love your take on why Pinterest is so addictive in the comments!

Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.


  1. I have not jumped on the Pintrest train… YET. I do know that my wife is ADDICTED! I really dont understand it, but that could be why the majority of users are women. I have seen a little bit of traffic from it, some people have pinned my articles!

    Chris recently posted..30 days to InfoBarrel successMy Profile

    1. Hi Chris. Yes, I’ve been using it a fair bit. I can say that I’m not addicted to it in particular. I think that I get caught up in social media overall (e.g. Pinterest, then to Facebook, then to Linkedin, then to Twitter…). That’s probably the thing I need to worry about the most. It is a good opportunity to share, discover and connect so I’ll keep building my Pinterest boards. We’ll see how the demographics shift over time.

  2. I’ve been holding off signing up to Pinterest because I’ve heard it can be so addictive! I don’t want to get addicted to something that is so similar to Tumblr cos I find it so distracting. I reckon I will have caved in my the end of the month and got it!
    Harriet recently posted..Sony Ericsson Xperia X8My Profile

    1. Hey Kitty – yes, it’s the new, fun toy in some senses. I know some people are using it for curation (collecting and sharing of content). I think coupling visuals with the promise of good content has been providing good traffic at least to companies who offer services..

  3. Good job Tom.

    I agree with you on a lot of your points. Obviously it depends on the person in question, but a lot of the base reasons seem to be here. 4 and 7 are me, and 8 is also a big one, although I hadn’t thought about it that way before.

    Initially I got into Pinterest for creative reasons. I think many of us are amazed at first by the fact that our boards reflect who we are in a way we may never have seen before. It is quite illuminating in that way. For the first time, we can see our own style from the view of an outsider. We may also discover things about ourselves that perhaps we had not really known, having seen a visual representation of our inner self.

    I believe that as the newness of Pinterest, the discovery portion, wears off and we reach Pin overload, each of us will need to redefine how we use it. How it is organized and its roll in our daily life. Otherwise it will quickly become overwhelming and as a result be left behind, having become more of a burden than a blessing.
    Kurt Hierholzer recently posted..Inspired…My Profile

    1. Thanks Kurt. Interesting point about how discovery may get a little old and then each person will need to redefine how and why they use it. Also it is a good way to kind of project your personality or style to others. Great points and thank you for the comment!

  4. Pinterest in an interesting social network. I’ve just started exploring and am not sure of its business value.

    I know that my wife loves it and spends nearly twice as much time on Pinterest than on Facebook. And it has turned into about four times the amount of “projects” around the house.

    There is an interesting psychology with it, I’m going to be watching it to see how it plays out for sure.
    Alan Smith recently posted..Four Ways Pinterest Can Work for Your BusinessMy Profile

    1. Alison, I know people get really excited about terms of service – usually social media tries to make it so that they own (at least a peice) of your content and that you take all of the liability and they take none. I consider myself a pragmatist so I think in 99.99999% of the cases this won’t impact me. Yes, for photographers or graphic artists, their copyright policies and terms are critical. For big, big brands I can see some hesitation. I’m generally not too phased.

      On the paid pinner thing, Twitter has sponsored tweets and people are paid to blog. I think it’s par for the course unfortunately. I think it should be noted or disclosed though (versus) kept quiet. What do you think now that some time has passed?

  5. Good stuff here Tom.

    Although I don’t have the slightest idea why so many are all in an uproar on using Pinterest, you can probably point to “We Have Addictive Tendencies” as being the main reason. This one point pretty much sums up the rest….

    Oh, and I have no more time to write here ’cause I’ve got to go see if I have any new emails in my in-box…. :-)

    Thanks Tom…. Eric
    Eric T. Wagner recently posted..What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Peyton ManningMy Profile

  6. Hey Tom,
    I’ve had a quick look around Pintrest, and I have got an account (1 measley pin is all I’ve contributed) but it’s probably a good job I haven’t dipped my toe too deeply in the pinterest pond, as I may not come up for air 😉
    I can certainly identify with points 1 – 4 and more time being sucked away is the last thing I need at this point.

    Given the early issues with copyright and such, I’m more than happy to sit on the sidelines and observe for a while till it proves its value to me as a business tool.
    Jackie recently posted..There Are Things You Don’t Know About MeMy Profile

    1. Jackie – I think it’s good to at least have a account and a pin so you have a closer view of the action than just reading about it! We’ll see where things go with Pinterest from here….

  7. Such great thoughts – really. I do like to collect things – but love doing it “online” because it doesn’t take up any physical space in my home and I don’t have to ever dust it (though I do have some things in my computer that need dusting off!).
    I also love me some good eye candy (as well as chocolate candy) and enjoy the “low obligation” of Pinterest – easy in – easy out – like a pair of worn in Birkenstocks!

    1. Hi Denise, I too think the trend of digital pack-ratting is good because it does save a lot of clutter at home! Yes, I do have some major spring cleaning to do on my hard drive though. That’s the only downside. Thanks for the comment!

  8. I guess I’d rather be a pack rat online than in my studio apartment. And better to shop the food visuals than actually eat that decadent cupcake myself.

  9. Tom,

    Overwhelming I feel the visual nature of Pinterest is what has set it apart. Google+ is very nice for non-text media but Pinterest allows you to group and collect.

    It’s also so much easier to allow Pictures to define us than our own words…


    Ryan H.

    1. Yep Ryan. I agree that pictures help define us in a new way. Pinterest does that in a way that no other social network has done as of yet. Thanks for the comment!

  10. Hi Tom,

    Good pointers (as usually 😉 )

    It seems I’m a freak: I’m very inactive in all social medias. I wouldn’t use them at all if it wasn’t a part of my job 😀 (I’ll get more active in a couple of weeks, now I’m still too busy with building my new website…)

    So, for me your last point about low obligation is the most important. I don’t want to use a service that will require a lot of attention, to use it “appropriately”, as is the case with the other major social medias…
    Peter Sandeen recently posted..Potatoes – The Great Time Management TeachersMy Profile

  11. Thanks for the fun post Tom. #2, #4, & #7 has me written all over it! I like the fact that you can easily organize & categorize things on Pinterest, you can easily find things through the tags & search, & visuals are a must for me. I like all things pretty!

    Another reason I think Pinterest is so appealing to people is that it’s the new, upcoming thing & everyone is there. We like to be in the “in crowd” & be were everyone is at.

    Again, great post! I definitely enjoyed it & I’m off to share!
    Meagan recently posted..Creative Business Blog Carnival – MarchMy Profile

    1. Meagan,

      Yes, I hear you. Pinterest is the new, big thing. At one point Google+ seemed to be the hot, new thing and then Pinterest kind of took the spotlight. Will something come next and take the spotlight from Pinterest? We’ll see!

  12. Then there’s the issue of social media fatigue. Is Pinterest just different enough from other social networks that it frees us from incessant updates and checkins? Or has it just replaced one addiction with another — a sort of social media gateway drug?

    1. Great point Emily. Maybe it’s different enough? The answer’s not clear because it may be pulling in newer social media users who have shunned facebook previously. Thanks for stopping by!

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