Navigating the Challenges of Building for a Passionate User Base and Understanding the Psychology of Social Status



Aug 25, 20234 min read


Navigating the Challenges of Building for a Passionate User Base and Understanding the Psychology of Social Status


Building a product for a highly opinionated user base can be both rewarding and challenging. In this article, we will explore the lessons learned from Reddit's experience over five years and delve into the psychology behind social status. By understanding these concepts, we can better navigate the intricacies of user feedback and the impact of social status on our decision-making.

Building Trust and Identifying Valuable Feedback:

When dealing with passionate users, it is essential to embrace their enthusiasm rather than attempting to suppress it. Instead of trying to destroy their passion, we should aim to harness it productively. Building trust with users is crucial, and one way to do this is by filling the Trust Vault. This means actively listening to their feedback, considering their suggestions, and implementing changes when appropriate.

However, it is important to note that not all feedback should be treated equally. The loudest individuals may not represent the majority of your user base or your ideal customer profile. To identify valuable feedback, two key factors should be considered: whether the feedback comes from a significant portion (10% or more) of your user base and whether the users giving feedback can influence the opinions of others.

Navigating Nuanced Product Discussions:

One of the significant challenges faced by platforms like Reddit is the difficulty of having nuanced product discussions in the public square. The public back-and-forths often fail to promote clarity or alignment because the incentive is to win the conversation rather than find common ground. To foster productive discussions, it is crucial to create an environment of psychological safety where users feel comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas.

The Golden Rule of Feedback:

Asking for feedback from users is an important step, but it is equally important to act on that feedback or provide a clear explanation for not doing so. Failing to consider feedback can erode trust and discourage users from providing input in the future. Therefore, the golden rule of feedback is simple: ask for feedback only if you genuinely intend to consider it.

Understanding the Psychology of Social Status:

Our desire for social status has deep roots in our evolutionary past. Throughout history, being popular and having a higher social status provided survival advantages, including greater group protection and longevity. The psychology of prestige influences how we behave and think, driving us to seek recognition and validation from others.

In the modern world, social media has amplified our ability to accumulate social capital. It offers an efficient way to showcase our status and gain validation. However, this pursuit of status can lead to anxiety, self-defeating decisions, and a misalignment with our values.

Aligning Status with Personal Values:

When striving for status, it is essential to reflect on whether our goals and motivations align with our personal values. The desire for prestige can sometimes lead us astray, causing us to decline opportunities for personal growth or self-discovery. Taking the time to evaluate our desires and motivations can help ensure that we progress in the right direction rather than simply chasing societal expectations.

Avoiding the Status Game:

To avoid feelings of inadequacy and the constant desire to keep up with others, it is beneficial to find friends both online and in real life who are not caught up in the status game. Surrounding ourselves with individuals who prioritize personal growth and authenticity can help us stay grounded and true to ourselves.

Learning from Others:

Reading memoirs and biographies of individuals who have achieved their dreams by following their own path, rather than striving for wealth or status, can provide valuable insights. These stories remind us of the importance of reflecting on what truly matters to us and staying true to our values.

Actionable Advice:

1. Actively listen to user feedback, but prioritize valuable feedback from a significant portion of your user base.

2. Foster an environment of psychological safety to encourage open and nuanced product discussions.

3. Reflect on your desires for status and ensure they align with your personal values.


Building a product for a passionate user base and navigating the complexities of social status requires careful consideration and understanding. By embracing user feedback, fostering productive discussions, and aligning our desires for status with our values, we can create products that resonate with our users while staying true to ourselves.


  1. "What 5 years at Reddit taught us about building for a highly opinionated user base", (Glasp)
  2. "The psychology of prestige: why we play the social status game", (Glasp)

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