The term “popping” has become quite popular for You Tube viewers featuring videos of various extractions of pus and other bodily fluids from large blackheads, pimples, and cysts. It has become a cultural phenomenon with millions fans all over the world. Many authors try to give a reasonable explanation for this wide popularity. For instance, Daniel Kelly, author of the book Yuck!: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust says: “Disgust is a psychological component to this arsenal of protective weaponry. Instead of waiting until something gets into our system that we have to fight to push out, disgust helps us to stay away from objects and people that are likely to get us sick.”
The disgust phenomenon
Popping blackheads, cysts, pimples are rather gross and disgusting. But, that is the main reason why so many people are attracted to watching them. People instinctively always avoid things that really are repulsive to them, for instance common sources of disgust are: morgues which are associated with dead people, hospitals dealing with sick people, sewage and sanitation that deals with waste and garbage. By avoiding all these instances that really disgusts people, according to Kelly, people turn to the disgusting footage andare essentially captured to the video scenes.
There is another reason for this phenomenon and that is the thrill of the footage of popping pimple rather than the disgust factor. The well-known newspaper The Guardian reported that, the videos of popping pimples gives the popping fans a rush without the fear of danger, similar to a roller coaster ride. Another author, Nina Strohminger, in the book The Hedonics of Disgust, explains the psychology of disgusting feeling.This is what she says to Cosmopolitan:
“Rather, negative sensations are interesting, particularly when you’re in a context where they can’t hurt you.You’re probably not going to step in dog shit just for the experience, but maybe you’d click on a link to watch someone else doing it.”
There is another interesting aspect of this phenomenon and that is the soothing effect as for some people these footages are not gross but strangely enough soothing. This is confirmed and by Dr. Sandra Lee, a some kind of popping celebrity with a YouTube page that has amazingly almost 144,000 followers. She claims that for her followers these videos of extracting pimples and cysts are extremely soothing. Even for some of them the videos are like sleeping lulleby as by watching them they can easily fall asleep. Moreover, the combination of Lee’s soothing voice along with the satisfaction of relieving pressure creates feelings of pleasure for some viewers.
Dr. Sandra Lee explains that many of her watchers experience an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), which is a pleasurable tingling sensation experienced triggered by specific sights, sounds, and smells, or saying it openly, an “orgasm of the brain.” These kinds of sensations can be triggered by soft whispering, the sound of light tapping, or the brushing of hair, at least according to The Washington Post.
Lee states: “I agree that there is something hypnotic about pimple popping” as while uploading them she herself watches certain parts of them over and over again.
Nevertheless, it does not matter if you watch them because you want to be disgusted, or you need the thrill of a danger but with a safety net, or you have the soothing sensation of ASMR; it is perfectly clear that there is no harm in watching them, especially if the footage is some kind of therapy for you.
These videos can be quite helpful when the mental condition dermatillomania is concerned. This is askin picking disorder where individuals will repetitively pick at their own skin until they cause damage. It is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder which is added in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. According to Dr. Sandra Lee the “popping pimples/cysts” videos may assist in relieving this condition.
This is what she says, quoting: “I do know that it helps some of my viewers cope with their dermatillomania. I have a few patients with this condition, and when I see one again, I plan to suggest that they watch my videos and let me know if it helps them cope.”