We all know we shouldn’t be doing it, but none of us can resist popping a zit every now and then. But what used to be a guilty teenage habit has now become a full-fledged genre on its own. A simple search for pimple-popping videos throws up hundreds of results, each more disgusting than the previous. There’s even an entire Instagram account by a dermatologist dedicated to pimple-popping in all its revolting glory. If there are so many videos of pimples being popped, then clearly, there’s a huge demand for them. But why do so many people want to see these videos? Science might just have the answer to this question.
We Want To Be Disgusted
Have you ever cringed at a pimple-popping video but still not been able to look away? The disgust we feel whenever we see a pimple-popping video might be precisely why we can’t stop watching them either. Disgust is a survival trait that humans developed as a self-preservation tactic. Whenever we feel disgusted by something, we do everything we can to avoid it. By finding something disgusted, we protect ourselves from dangerous things that could harm us. From an evolutionary perspective, we might have felt disgusted by a diseased person, so we avoid them and in doing so, we also avoid the risk of catching the same disease.
But with advances in technology, human being have done everything they can to protect themselves from things that disgust them. There’s no place for gross things in civilized society. We’ve built underground sewage systems so we don’t have to see it, we keep our dead in morgues and we have private wards in hospitals so we can’t see the sick. This is why when we come across something as disgusting as a pimple-popping video, we’re so fascinated. We haven’t seen something disgusting in so long that when we see these videos, they have our full attention.
We Experience Horror Second-Hand
One of the reasons why we love horror movies so much is that we get to experience the thrill, fear and threat of danger through them, while being completely safe ourselves. It’s the same reason why we love roller coaster rides. Because we know logically that nothing dangerous can happen to us, we love the thrill that these rides give us. Our fascination with pimple-popping videos also follows this pattern. Many people who watch pimple-popping videos report the same feeling of horror mixed with thrill that they experience when they’re on a roller-coaster.
Many pimple-popping enthusiasts watch these videos at night before they fall asleep. Far from feeling revolted, they claim that these videos are actually soothing. The reason for this could be metaphorical. The popping of pimples, removing all the pus and leaving the skin clear again could be a metaphor for solving their own problems and sorting out their leaves. Some users even experience an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), otherwise known as a brain orgasm, when they watch these videos. This is a tingling feeling in your brain that feels pleasurable. Far from giving them nightmares, many viewers actually claim that it helps them fall asleep.
Watching pimple-popping videos might even be therapeutic. Dermatillomania is a condition where an individual keeps picking their skin, to the point where it’s harmful. For these people, watching pimple-popping videos might help with their condition because they get to experience it second-hand. While the exact therapeutic benefits of pimple-popping videos for people with dermatillomania haven’t been properly looked into, there’s promising evidence that it could be beneficial. Some therapists are even considering recommending these videos to their patients to help with their condition.
So whether you find pimple-popping videos fascinating or revolting, there’s definitely no escaping them. And with so many compelling reasons as to why pimple-popping videos are so fascinating, it’s not surprising that they’re only becoming more popular.