Why People Share

Posted on Feb 20, 2021

Understanding the psychology of why people share is one of the keys to unlocking growth.

1. Status

This is the big one. It can also be termed “belonging,” “prestige,” “respect,” “scarcity” or “in-the-know.” People often try to show this by associating themselves with other high-status people.

They also try to show this by joining products that are exclusive, like Facebook was at the beginning when they were just in colleges, or like Superhuman or Clubhouse have been recently.

2. Identity Projection

Other words in this cluster include: “tribalism,” “vindication,” and “confirmation bias.” We want to be able to show who we are and be vindicated in our identity.

This motivation is especially visible with outrage-sharing on social media. When we express outrage around something, we’re drawing a clear line around what we aren’t.

3. Being Helpful

“Utility.” “Better.” “Cheaper.” We are compelled to share things that we find useful because we want to be perceived as helpful and nurturing to our tribes. It feels good to be looked at as someone who is competent and knows what you’re doing.

Whether that be a new product that we feel really improves our lives by producing a lot of value or something that produces that value at a lower price.

4. Safety

“Fear.” “Compliance.” “Prevent harm.” “Security.” Fear is embedded in the most primal part of our psychology. If we sense danger, our brain has evolved to pay attention.

Any perceived threat to safety — whether physical, financial, or emotional — can be a powerful reason why people share.

5. Order

“Organize.” “Collect.” One of the Big Five personality traits is conscientiousness — people fall on a spectrum between personality types that like to be highly organized and efficient and those who are naturally messier.

People who are trying to organize their world because of their personality are highly motivated to share tools that help them to optimize and organize.

6. Novelty

“Entertainment.” “The new.” Another aspect of personality identified as part of the Big Five is openness to experience — where we fall on a spectrum of being driven by seeking novelty and curiosity to being cautious and preferring familiarity.

The attraction of novelty was identified early on by Wilhelm Wundt, one of the founders of modern psychology who came up with the Wundt curve — a bell-curve distribution between novelty at one end and familiarity at the other.

7. Validation

“Positive.” “Happy.” “Smart.” A lot of what we share online has to do with the fact that we want to get a boost, believe we are good, believe we are smart or believe we are worthy. We want to feel positive about ourselves and our place in the world.

At Tickle, we noticed this a lot with personality tests. People shared their results because they wanted to be validated and boost their self-esteem.

8. Voyeurism

“Window.” “Schadenfreude.” “Access.” There are two related motivations that cause people to share out of voyeurism.

On the one hand, you have vicarious enjoyment. People share things that allow others to vicariously live through them, whether it’s instagramming their food and vacations or sharing a product unboxing on YouTube.