The genre seems to have started on Tumblr in 2015, with a man standing in a room filled with tomatoes. He is probably the grandfather of somebody, but the indoor farmer's market has something unsettling about him, with his blurry focus and his stacked boxes of oil stacks. "This image is cursed," reads the caption, published by the CursedImages Tumblr account. Tumblr users have begun to apply the "damn image" label to any disturbing image, usually due to a strange subject or poor image quality. From Tumblr, the same has spread to Twitter where @cursedimages (with his cousins, @scarytoilet and @darkstockphotos) has gained popularity and average notoriety during the 2016 election season for their photos of the feet with lit cigarettes between each toe or cabbage be stabbed with more than a dozen knives. The interests in the same was spiking again all the spring. Whatever the lure of the wandering wave, it will not fade.
Emma Gray Ellis covers memes, trolls and other elements of the internet culture for WIRED.
Shocking images are a classic Internet entertainment: before reaching social media, many cursed images appear on obsolete websites focused on much more frightening products, such as snuff films, coarse medical photos and anything else is scatological. This suggests that the attraction of cursed images could be related to morbid curiosity inspired by other photographic genres. Think of them as gateways to which most users will stop without going further.
People's reactions to shocking images have been well studied. According to Dario Maestripieri, a behavioral scientist at the University of Chicago, humans know that violence is likely to impact their lives and instinctively look for violent content to learn more about it. The appeal of disgust, which according to Maestripieri is felt by a smaller number of people, is a little more murky. "From an evolutionary point of view, we should avoid these things," he says. "Disgusting stimuli can lead to a risk of infectious disease." In his research, participants can look disgusting images longer than any other category. But then how do you explain 2 girls 1 cup? "There is an aspect of the personality at work," he says. "You could argue that if you're really disgusted, you're excited, some people are looking for sensations."
It's the room in search of sensations that seems most related to the allure of cursed images. Whatever they make you feel, it is never anything. "Humans have evolved to be attracted to new things," says Margee Kerr, a sociologist who studies fear. "We are descendants of humans who have the curiosity and motivation to go out and explore, but also the ability to notice and act quickly when they are faced with something new." In modern society, there are magpies who seek a strange strangeness. That's why people love travel photos and deep sea fish and why "Never Seen Before" is a delicious clickbait. You've probably never seen a person in a Elmo Costume Flared on a bed like one of Jack's French girls. Your brain is rewarding you for your discovery.
But cursed images are not just new. They are strange in a troubling way. In a word, they are scary. Colton Scrivner, a PhD student at the University of Chicago, is studying the human interest in violence and beliefs, but scientists have found that the feeling of being "scared" is the organization's response to an ambiguous threat . You need to take a closer look to understand what it's all about, decide to fight, run away or ignore. You have to rank the experience for future reference, but it defies categorization. This yuk-yum-eu-lol-love-hate tension is the place where goose bumps and cursed images live.
Scrivner compares cursed images to a kind of haunted house online. "It's a mix of comfort and uncertainty," he says. Haunted houses are safe unless they hide an ax murderer and all these bodies are real. "We know that we are not really threatened by an image because it is stored on a computer, but there is always an ambiguity," says Scrivner. "This leads to an information gathering process, especially if we move away from the potential threat." Most people do not go to their abandoned warehouse to face ambiguous threats in person, but haunted houses and horror movies make millions of victims. dollars each year.
Still, cursed images would be just a curiosity on the Internet – and would not be memorized – if they could not be shared. You may think that to alarm others would be socially frowned upon, but it's just the opposite. "People who share threatening rumors are considered more trustworthy," said Scrivner. "This is not necessarily aware, but sharing negative information tends to make you look like a more informed and reliable social partner." Cursed images only keep reality. So go ahead and send your friend to the picture of a picturesque town teeming with Bears or a hairless Sphynx Cat it looks like a raw picked chicken. Their brains will hate him, and thank you.
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