The Virtual Rage Room Is Here

Source Composite Sean Culligan/OZY; Images Shutterstock

Why you should care

You don't need to visit a rage room to release your stress any more. Just go to YouTube.

The audio is patchy, the video shaky at times, but the 10-minute “Best Building Demolition Compilation” video on YouTube, published in 2017, has 44 million views and counting. It features a series of buildings, industrial chimneys and towers being razed to the ground, as giant clouds of dust gather around them. Each concrete building folds into itself and then, boom: It’s reduced to rubble within minutes. In the comments, viewer Olivia Joelle says she’ll “never understand why things like this interest me so much.” Another commenter wonders: “Who thinks this is oddly satisfying? Is it just me?” 

It isn’t. Over the past decade, rage rooms have emerged across the world, starting in Japan and spreading fast to the United States, the United Kingdom, China, India and the Middle East. These spaces, also known as anger rooms in some cities, allow patrons to don safety equipment, pick up a hammer or rod, and smash everything from iPhones and MacBooks to dishes and walls in a controlled environment. Now, a digital version of such rooms is beginning to explode across social media platforms, including YouTube and Instagram. 

Videos of destruction — either on an industrial scale such as the 2017 video or on a smaller scale with people just smashing stuff — are attracting viewers like Joelle without them feeling the need to break things on their own. The videos have found a devoted audience among those who grew up with smartphones in their hands and TikTok at their fingertips. Hashtags like #destruction (637,228), #breakingstuff (5,182), #destroyingstuff (363) and #smashingthings (647) are leaving a mark on Instagram. In one Instagram video (22,000-plus likes), Los Angeles–based Alex Blue Davis — who acted in the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy — uses a hammer to smash a sofa so hard that the hammer breaks. A viewer observes: “I need this kind of therapy in my life.” 

It is basically catharsis.

Naveen Kumar, psychologist

The hashtag #destroyingstuff on TikTok has more than 153,000 views to date. On YouTube, a 2018 compilation of “100 best shredding moments,” posted by a user called Gojzer, has drawn more than 96 million views. In another video, “The Crusher,” a YouTuber with 1.88 million subscribers, puts a bottle with some liquid in a shredding machine. The YouTube channel, Hydraulic Press Channel, features videos of a hydraulic press destroying things. In 2015, when Lauri Vuohensilta created the channel, there were just 30 subscribers and today there are 2.3 million subscribers.

“It takes people away from their everyday life,” Vuohensilta, 32, tells me from his home in Finland. He thinks that another major attraction is stress relief.  

There’s no scientific evidence showing whether or how rage rooms — let alone virtual rage rooms — help to destress users or watchers. But the volume of subscribers and view counts of these videos — Bruce Springsteen has 866,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, a third of the Hydraulic Press Channel — suggest enough people are buying into them. And there’s a giant market out there. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. “It is basically catharsis,” says New Delhi–based psychologist Naveen Kumar, trustee of Manas Foundation, a mental health organization.  

For those who post these videos, there’s the adrenaline rush of seeing one’s videos do so well — as is the case for successful YouTubers of other genres, whether they share reviews of the latest video games or show unlikely home remedies to tech problems. There’s also the opportunity to earn off these videos when they draw several million views — though digital rage room channels didn’t share earning data with OZY.    

In some ways, the phenomenon is the next step in experiential video-watching, which became a rage through ASMR videos — which creates tingling sensations in the brain that some claim have calming effects — some years ago. As with ASMR videos, some of which attracted controversy for using violence against women, for instance, some digital rage room videos have drawn criticism too. In one video, The Crusher put a live octopus in the shredder (for which he received backlash, and rightly so).

But unsurprisingly, digital rage rooms are also inspiring each other. Vuohensilta was inspired by another YouTuber who heated nickel and poured it on peanut butter, whiskey and popcorn. Those videos received millions of views. Tito4re, another channel, pours molten copper on things. Vuohensilta also tries to keep his channel interactive — he takes requests from his audience on what to destroy next under the hydraulic press.

The platforms for virtual rage rooms are spreading too. Pinterest and Reddit now have destruction GIFs as well. For some viewers, says Kumar, the novelty of these videos and GIFs might also be an attraction. “It is something out of the ordinary, so it captures attention,” he says.

Yet the fact that interest in these virtual rage rooms is only growing suggests there’s more than novelty at play here. Three months ago, Killem — whose YouTube channel has 2.7 million subscribers — made a video titled “I Made a Rage Room & Smashed Everything Inside!” In the 15-minute video, the man smashes a sofa, crockery plates, lamp, table and a chair with a massive hammer, laughing all the while and talking to the camera about how good it feels. The video garnered some 263,000 views in three months. One comment appears to sum up what makes such videos click: “I think if everyone had a rage room the world would be a better place.” Even if it’s only virtual. 

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