I have a confession.
My name is Andrew, and I’m a… actually, I’m not sure there’s a word for it.
I’m not addicted to the drink, nor to narcotics. Not gambling, not shopping. Hell, not even chocolate does it for me. My compulsion is a far more shameful one: viral videos.
I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill kitten riding a turtle or corgis on a treadmill here. I’m talking about the videos that get deleted, reuploaded and deleted from YouTube in perpetuity. The stuff people won’t look at from their work computers that makes them delete their internet history upon completion.
Meatspin? Seen it. (If you don’t know, don’t ask.)
Two Girls One Cup? Twice. (If you don’t know, I’m curious how you get internet reception under that rock.)
Hell, I even saw the “One Man One Icepick” video uploaded by alleged killer Luka Magnotta this summer.
The fact is, the grosser and more obscure the video is, the more compelled I feel to find and watch it. Sadly, I’m not alone in this.
For this of you still reading, it’s important to note that I don’t watch this because it turns me on, nor do I enjoy it. Quite the contrary. Truthfully, with the Magnotta video I found myself viewing the gruesome 10 minute snuff film out of one eye while building some sort of impenetrable blanket fortress around me in my desk chair.
I used to use the crutch of “I’m a journalist…I need to see this” when forced to justify my compulsion. But in reality, it can best be summed up as morbid (sometimes literally) curiosity to the extreme.
My first exposure to what’s known, creatively enough, as a “shock site” was in high school when I had the misfortune of being shown something called “Tubgirl,” featuring a brown-orange geyser of sorts erupting from a nude woman’s bottom. This image still haunts internet users today.
Let’s journey through the anals (hehe) of history to see how shock sites have gotten to the place they are today.
“Goatse,” the first known internet shock site surfaced in 1999, featuring a man using a variety of objects to stretch out his rear end. The site, registered to a domain name under the jurisdiction of Christmas Island officially went offline in 2004 (although copycat sites have emerged since then) but still lives on in infamy as a perverted version of a rickroll for a subset of internet users (of which I am not one, I assure you.)
The most widely known internet shock video is the minute-long trailer for the Brazilian pornographic film Hungry Bitches. The trailer, known to the world as 2 Girls 1 Cup is unable to be summarized in a family-friendly article, suffice it to say it defies all sense of morality with its display of various bodily fluids (and solids) being exchanged in various ways (and orifices). This video spawned a meme of people uploading their reactions to watching 2G1C to YouTube (the video itself is banned from the site.) Celebrities such as Fear Factor‘s Joe Rogan and singer Wyclef Jean have watched the video and shared their reactions.
Whether it’s a shock site or news footage of a car crash, the vast majority of us have some level of fascination with morbidity, sexuality and the grotesque that leads us to a mortified sense of satisfaction upon glimpsing something that we know in our hearts to be taboo. It’s quite apparent that this unfortunate aspect of human nature is one of the driving forces behind the internet.
In 1972, 29-year old news anchor Christine Chubbuck shot herself during a live broadcast. No video of the shooting has made it to the internet, but the very Googling of her name delivers 250,000 results, the vast majority of which are messageboard postings of people desperately searching for said footage. These sickly seekers have had to settle for more widely available videos, like Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer’s 1987 suicide at a televised press conference, video of which has been online for years.
One could safely argue that this desensitization has been around since long before the internet, but the instant availability of such information in graphic form renders us unable to process its intrinsic nature. A woman shooting herself on television is cared about as pixels, not as a human life.
Just because information is accessible does not mean it ought to be disseminated in the first place. This applies to state secrets as much as it applies to tubgirl.