Why We Love Watching People Destroy Shit

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There’s little question that our culture is obsessed with destruction. From the days of watching gladiators kill one another for sport, to watching Miley Cyrus at the VMA’s, people just can’t get enough of watching things getting destroyed. Even Hollywood seems to understand this, as destruction movies like “San Andreas” have been coming out for years.

It should come as little surprise that the YouTube channel “Hydraulic Press Channel” exists, and moreover, is sitting at over 500,000 subscribers and 40 million views as of this writing.

The formula is basic yet effective. A faceless narrator places a random object under a hydraulic press and then proceeds to crush it. The videos (which are usually less than five minutes long) open with a heavy metal intro, followed by the host who quickly explains what featured object is unfortunate enough to find itself under the crushing weight of 100 tons of steel.

The YouTube channel was created by Lauri Vuohensilta, age 29, in Finland. Vuohensilta’s appetite for destruction traces back to his childhood, when he remembers taking big rocks and throwing them at toy cars.

He was inspired to create The Hydraulic Press channel after watching other videos like it on YouTube.

“I have watched similar channels for quite a long time,” Vuohensilta tells BTRtoday. “That channel where a guy puts a red hot nickel ball on things to see if it catches on fire or melts. I think that channel is so simple and it was a good idea to do something similar myself.”

The Hydraulic Press Channel joined YouTube on October 6, 2015, and has since created 18 videos of an industrial press crushing things like a golf ball, a mobile phone, coins, and even another hydraulic press. Some of Vuohensilta’s favorites include a hockey puck and bowling ball.

“My favorite moments are when something explodes,” he says.

Before his rise to YouTube stardom, Vuohensilta used the hydraulic press in his workshop as a tool to bend or unbend metal. What started as a small family workshop has now turned into a huge success that he and his wife use to entertain millions of people.

Much of Vuohensilta’s support comes from the sub-reddit aptly called Hydraulic Press Channel. The group forum is Vuohensilta’s main avenue of communication with his fanbase.

“I haven’t used it before this,” Vuohensilta says. “There’s a lot of suggestions on what I should crush.”

With the mounting popularity of the channel, Vuohensila is looking to expand and make some changes. Currently, the ever-fervent host is assembling an even bigger hydraulic press to use, has acquired a 3D printer, and is looking for sponsorship. He admits that it will take considerable effort to acquire all of the parts, but remains hopeful about third party donations and assistance.

The Hydraulic Press Channel isn’t the only YouTube channel that serves up a special brand of carnage. Blendtec is another channel that destroys things. Their weapon of choice is the blender, and they currently sit with 800,000 subscribers and 270 million views.

FPSRussia is a channel about shooting things and blowing them up with high-caliber weaponry. It has over 6 million subscribers and 700 million views.

These YouTube channels exist in part to satiate our constant appetite for destruction, which doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. But why does this appeal to our senses? What is it about watching things getting crushed, or blended, or shot and blown up, that stimulates our psyches?

A study published in the “Journal of Nonverbal Behavior” argues that our obsession with destruction stems from a certain appreciation of uncertainty. Written by Vernon Allen and David Greenberger, the study describes an experiment conducted with panes of glass. Three panes were struck and immediately shattered. A fourth pane, however, shattered either after one hit or on the third hit. Those tested in the study enjoyed the breaking of the glass when the outcome was less certain.

The Hydraulic Press channel is practically built upon this principle of uncertainty. Many of the objects placed under the press have not been crushed before in this way–or at least not seen, recorded, and published for mass viewership.

In the end, the answer might not be as complicated as it sounds. The biggest appeal of the channel may just be that it’s fun.

“I think people like to watch something that isn’t normal,” Vuohensilta says. “It’s something you shouldn’t do, so if you shouldn’t do something, it’s usually fun to do it.”

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