There is an endless sea of images and videos on the Internet. In fact, it seems that there is almost nothing you cannot find in the digital ocean. What excites us most in this infinite archive of our species? What attracts our eyes? What makes our brains go into automatic sorting mode? What do we let us affect us? Are there pictures that we particularly like without us knowing why? Perfect shapes, straight lines, colours, destruction, confusion. Order and chaos - It is almost impossible to turn the gaze away from such images. There is a satisfaction to them. Are we all obsessive-compulsive?
As well as the funny "home-clips" on Facebook, heartbreaking stories of stranded whales and exaggerated political articles, images and videos have been appearing that are supposed to have a "calming" or "satisfying" effect on the viewer - visual oases of relaxation. Perfectly executed movements, soft enveloping foams, miles of colourful cables that are precisely arranged, aligned and sorted, various objects that are being sliced, brought together and pushed into one another as if they were only created for each other. These images and videos, often accompanied by #satisfying or the very word satisfied in their titles, are shared on the Internet like pills on illegal raves. Despite are different categories they all offer small windows into another world. A world of incredible, absolute perfectionism that satisfies even most repressed obsessive-compulsive behaviours.
Science suggest that the attraction of such images (as with optical illusions) lies in the weaknesses of our primate brain which evolved the ability to recognize certain basic patterns in nature and to discern a certain order in the midst of a chaotic world. Therefore, if you look at a perfectly organized situation - a rare occurrence in the physical world - the brain rewards this finding.
It could be thanks to this mechanism that cities are divided into near-perfect grids (such as New York or Paris) and that we live in high-rise buildings instead of tree huts. Hence the brief moment of happiness when looking at a perfect arrangement or situation that is so incredible that it seems miraculous.
The fascination for geometric forms and harmony can be traced back to antiquity.. Particular attention can be drawn to a discussion between Socrates and his pupils in ‘Phaidon’, a work written in dialogue form, by the Greek philosopher Plato. The conversation dealt with the immortality of the soul.Socrates defended the thesis that geometry and harmony and the discernment of forms, is inherent in human beings rather than being something learned through experience and practice. He stated that such abstract qualities could only be attributed to the soul and would thus exist from birth. Therefore, for as long as humans have been discussing and grappling with our own existence,, it has been argued that the satisfaction we find in the idea of harmony is given to us and is a fundamental part of what is is to be human.
At the other end of the web’s "satisfying" videos are those that show the uncontrolled devastation of objects. Mobile phones are shredded in blenders. Consumer goods are crushed with hammers. Buildings come crashing to the ground in slow motion. How can it be that these images trigger a similarly hypnotizing pleasure as the images described above? The longing for the feeling of power is a possible explanation. Sometimes, there is just the urge to destroy things - like Nero burning everything down, for the sake of destruction. We learned at an early age that disorder is something forbidden. According to Freud, three basic human instincts are suppressed by society, one of these is the joy and lust for killing. These videos allow us to be lecherously satisfied by destruction – satisfying our curiosity to the chaos these scenarios may trigger – from the privacy of our own screens, away from disapproving and suppressing eyes.
Whether it is a perfectly coordinated production line or the destruction of the most expensive technology: what seems to count is the feeling of power. One could see this as a result of countless concepts that are perennially assailing us and the complexity of society’s demands. Depending on personal preference, an escape can be found through brief moments of order or chaos. Perhaps it’s mowing a meadow with lovely straight lines or perhaps it is smashing dishes on the wall. What if we took these things off the computer and into real life? The effort is a bit more strenuous to being with, but the satisfaction might be more physical, real, or even more chaotic.