Why We Love Looking At Gross Things Online, According To Science

Photographed by Pheobe Chuason.
First, Sweet Lady Science explained why we love cat videos. Now, she has come to our subconscious' rescue again. This time, she is defending our love of disgusting internet content. We don't mean when you scroll through /r/ShittyFoodPorn — go beyond that and into grosser territory. We're talking about your YouTube history, riddled with 10-minute long pimple-popping, earwax-extracting videos.

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"What's functional about disgust? It keeps us safe," explains Dr. Alexander J. Skolnick, PhD, of Saint Joseph's University, in a report from our friends at Shape. Spiders gross us out because we don't want to get bitten. There's a second part to this — we like to seek out disgusting things in controlled, safe settings. Dr. Clark McCauley, PhD, a psychology professor at Bryn Mawr College, tells Shape, "It's similar to why people go on roller coasters. You feel fear, even though you know you're safe," he says. Those blackhead videos are so grotesquely satisfying because they serve as a reminder that we don't have to deal with a literal mountain of grime lurking under our skin.

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Humans are naturally curious people, so it makes perfect sense that we enjoy exploring the darker, ickier aspects of life from a safe distance. While we're on that topic: Where can someone find a good roundup of tapeworm removal videos? Asking for a friend.

Click through to
Shape for more about the role that disgust plays in our lives.

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