The Psychology Behind The Rise Of Microblogging
- Krista Peck
- On 12/14/2012
Anyone who has been online for the last few years has noticed a remarkable shift away from busy, poorly designed websites and communities; and towards streamlined, almost minimalist sites and applications. While we are undeniably more digital than ever, it seems that we are taking a step back — not to move backward, but to regroup, realign and refine our online experiences as we move forward.
With the rise of microblogging platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram, one has to wonder why these virtual tools are currently in vogue. As people transition from spending most of their online time on individual websites and blogs to social networks and microblogging platforms, it’s important for people and brands to take a look at the motivating factors behind this change.
While the ability to meet basic human needs is often a factor in explaining human behavior as it relates to popular trends, even Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not adequate enough to explain the rise of microblogging.
Here are five psychologically based reasons why microblogging likely appeals to us:
1. We’re Innately Visual
From the snarky expression, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” to the natural interest in the naked human body, there is no doubt that we are all visual thinkers to some degree.
Therefore, it is not much of a stretch to think that photo-centric microblogging platforms such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram appeal to us on some ancient level — back to the times when we communicated via simple symbols on cave walls. We now have the luxury of being digital, but sometimes we don’t need a thousand words to express ourselves. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.
2. We Feel Peer Pressure
We’re social beings, so by definition, we want to fit in with others — we want to connect. Sure, there are times when we want to stand out, unplug and even rebel, but we possess a drive to connect with other people.
From a young age, we emulate people whom we look up to. By modeling ourselves after people we admire, we are acting out our need to connect. As the saying goes, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” We strive to be more like the people we like. We want buy the types of things they own, we want to engage in the activities they partake in, etc.
So, it is no surprise that these days, it only takes a positive review from a friend or a celebrity endorsement to jump on the latest digital bandwagon. Remember MySpace? Everyone was on it a few years ago, but now they flock to Facebook and Twitter to set up their little social places in cyberspace. There is power in numbers, and we tend to go to the places where our friends, families, mentors and favorite celebrities are.
3. It’s Trendy (Or Is It?)
This drive to fit in explains why trends exist. And the curation trend has been a huge one in fashion and digital circles for a few years now. It could be argued that it’s not a trend at all, as people naturally select things that evoke positive emotions. But in a digital sense, curation is young and very much a trend.
While we have yet to see how the digital curation trend will play out over time, it seems to be a nice fit for the even newer concept of microblogging. Working hand in hand, curation and microblogging help us communicate in a personal and concise way. We are able to successfully filter the information available to us so we can then organize it and express it as we wish. This also ties into the idea that we are innately visual — we like to see the things we like organized in a way that pleases us.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that systems have a universal tendency to gravitate towards disorder.
From a psychological perspective, we tend to feel better when we move away from chaos and towards order. This could be one of the appealing facets of the “curation craze.” Simply put, organizing things makes us feel more secure and in control.
4. We Prefer Ease Of Use
Generally speaking, we naturally prefer things that are quicker and easier to use, especially as we lead busier lives. There could be many reasons for this.
- We are constantly bombarded by products and ideas that are designed to make our lives run more smoothly. Think about the remote control that you don’t really need for your television to operate, but is oh-so-convenient. Think about all of those magazine articles and blog headlines that pull you in with the idea that you can achieve a better life by following x simple rules.
- We like feeling confident. Not many of us feel good engaging in an activity that we aren’t good at. When we can master something, we naturally feel invigorated. We want to do it more, and maybe even brag about it a bit. When things are easier for us to accomplish, we can grasp it faster and fast-forward to those feelings of self-confidence — and in the digital age, we can even share our euphoria with the world through social networks.
- We need to keep up. If you are a brand wanting to keep up with the times, you are expected to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and maybe even Tumblr these days. Luckily, microblogging is easier and faster than traditional blogging. It helps you share your message and connect with your fans, while not taking up all of your time.
5. We’re Fickle
People get bored and change their minds every day. This is nothing new. It may be true that the more we have, the more we want. Today, we enjoy the luxury of having a lot of information and things at our fingertips. As we learn more and experience more, our tolerance for old things may be lowered. We really do have that “out with the old, in with the new” mentality.
With the introduction of social media and microblogging, traditional websites and blogs start feeling stale to us. For many of the reasons above, we have a drive to seek out the next big thing, and the digital arena is no exception.
“…people are by nature fickle, and it is easy to persuade them of something, but difficult to keep them persuaded.” — Niccolo Machiavelli, Italian dramatist, historian & philosopher
Whether microblogging has staying power or will evolve into something else remains to be seen. As it stands, microblogging seems to be resonating with millions of people.
Do you find microblogging to be a valuable tool in your personal and/or professional life?