Mass Communication Theories and Pinterest Essay

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Mass Communication Theories and Pinterest

Michelle Ellison

University of the Incarnate Word

Introduction Pinterest, a highly addictive, interactive bookmarking and cataloging website is quickly becoming one of the most important social marketing platforms on the web. Since its emergence in 2009, the site it has grown at a phenomenal pace, driving more referral traffic to retailers than LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+ (Fox, 2012; Indvik, 2012). On 16 August 2011, Time magazine listed Pinterest in its "50 Best Websites of 2011" article, and in December 2011, the site became one of the top 10 largest social network services, according to Hitwise data, with 11 million total visits per week. (Sloan, 2011). The same month, the company was named the best new startup of 2011 by TechCrunch (Josh, 2012). What is especially particular about Pinterest’s success is that an estimated 72 percent of Pinterest users are women -- and the site has over 70 million users as of July 2013 (Menzies, Forbes). This paper will assess the success of Pinterest among women according to Zillmann's basic model of the Mood Management Theory and the Uses and Gratification Theory to assess what motivates women to use the Pinterest site in such overwhelming numbers. Is it to satisfy certain wants and needs, manage their mood or both?

Mood management theory Mood management theory proposes that an audience is confronted with an enormous diversity of media choices, thus selectivity in media use is inevitable. So what drives the choices made by media users? Mood management theory, proposed by Zillmann and Bryant, suggests that the audience or media users’ moods have a strong influence on media content choices because the individual aims to manage or, more specifically, improve their mood. The theory emphasizes that self-exposure to entertainment is motivated by hedonic purposes because media use is motivated by the goal of mood optimization. According to the mood management theory, media does not only convey information but also modifies emotion. Individuals look for media choices through which they have already had positive experiences. Positive experiences can occur through media first by improving their negative emotional state or reinforcing the positive emotional state, and the more a person makes this experience, the higher is the probability that they will select that medium once again to minimize the bad mood or to maximize the good mood. According to Knobloch-Westerwick (2006), there are four types of media content attributes relevant to mood management: excitatory potential, absorption potential, semantic affinity, and hedonic valence. Excitatory potential describes the ability of content to arouse or calm emotion. Absorption potential explains the ability of content to distract from things that cause a negative mood and toward other things that cause positive feelings. Semantic affinity is about the degree to which content consists of characteristics that are similar to the aspects that are causing a bad mood. Hedonic valence describes the potential that content causes positive feelings. According to this aspect, individuals tend to minimize negative moods and maximize the positive moods. Every time a person minimizes the negative and maximizes the positive moods, it leaves a memory trace, which influences the person to indulge in that activity again in the future. This mimics Zillmann’s four elements of media content that may effect mood management repair, which include excitatory potential of the content, semantic affinity, content’s absorption potential and its hedonic valence. (1988) While mood management theory principles relate to the broader realm of mood optimization, mood management theory has largely been applied to entertainment choices. For example, an experimental study by Bryant and Zillmann (1984) reveals that individuals can overcome boredom or stress through selective exposure