YouTube has more than 1.5 billion users, making it one of the most successful social media platforms, as reported by TechCrunch. There are close to 100 million combined views, not of music videos, cats playing the piano or even celebrities reading mean tweets. Instead, these 100 million views are of clips of exploding cysts, unplugged blackheads and even botfly extractions.
Welcome to the world of “popping.”
This relatively new interest is sweeping across the internet, gathering millions of likes and clicks for a category considered by many disgusting and unsanitary.
Although some think these videos are gross, one reason for the obsession with pimple-popping clips has more to do with the thrill of the footage rather than the disgust factor. Fans find that the videos give them a sort of rush without the fear of danger, sort of like riding a roller coaster. Nina Strohminger, author of The Hedonics of Disgust, explained the psychology of this feeling to Cosmopolitan.
“Negative sensations are interesting, particularly when you’re in a context where they can’t hurt you,” Strohminger said. “You’re probably not going to fall in garbage just for the experience, but maybe you’d click on a link to watch someone else doing it.”
This thrill from watching a diluted depiction of pore cleansing may be why movies such as “Saw” and “The Human Centipede” have such a huge following, successfully taking gore to the extreme. Someone who qualifies Strohminger’s research is freshman Quinn Spear. He sees pimple popping videos not only as a source of excitement, but also as a therapeutic hobby in a sense.
“Ever since I started watching popping videos of all sorts, I began to feel a sense of relief and calm after viewing it,” Spear said. “It’s developed into a way to make me feel better about myself, making me seem less disgusting, I guess. It really helps me boost my confidence.”
Despite the somewhat remedial tendencies that Spear, along with others, feel after watching these videos, there are still some who view the category with nothing more than revulsion. Junior Joseph Koo associates strongly with the belief that the popping sensation isn’t a rush, but rather a trend that society shouldn’t have started.
“I’ve never enjoyed watching pimple popping videos and never will,” Koo said. “YouTube can be great for a lot of things, such as reviews, do it yourself videos and more, but human nature’s craving for something out of the ordinary almost ruins the social media for me.”
Many people pick at their skin from time to time, but it’s a habit that most don’t recognize. Whether people are picking at scabs, squeezing pimples or fussing over other blemishes, the unavoidable act of doing so can develop into something much worse, according to an article published by Elements Behavioral Health. Simple pimple popping videos might appear to be mere reflections of their titles, but under the surface, this compulsion may secretly be Compulsive Skin Picking Disorder, which, according to information from the International OCD Foundation, affects around one in 20 people.
Spear can see how skin picking has the ability to change from a simple routine into this disorder that could leave lasting effects on the body. Although he doesn’t have this disorder, he didn’t previously realize the dangers he could potentially face if his source of amusement leads him to participate in the action of pimple popping.
“Just watching the popping videos, you don’t really associate it with a disorder,” Spear said. “It seems more like a person that wants to make themselves look better, but when you know these disorders exist, it makes it much more likely that the picking you see in the videos could be a symptom of the disorder.”
Even though many share the same opinion as Koo, the new trend has gained popularity, which has led to Buzzfeed, Daily Mail and other media outlets covering the topic, and the number of views and likes on these videos show global approval. Despite the disapproval of many, the appeal to gross-themed videos or not, the increase in popularity is undoubtable.
“Even though I don’t like or agree with the trend, it’s obvious that it’s going to continue to grow,” Koo said. “I’m becoming more open to the trend, but I think that it’s necessary to inform society about the dangers associated with it so we can try to prevent as many new emergences of Compulsive Skin Picking Disorder. It’s something we as a society are going to have to accept.”
Have you watched one of these videos?