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If you feel squicked out looking at a lotus pod or dread seeing a boat covered in barnacles, then congrats, you’re experiencing the maybe-real sensation of trypophobia. It’s one of the phobias coined on the Internet, a fear or unease seeing dense clusters of holes. Perhaps you encountered this with ye olde Photoshopped image of a breast with lotus pod holes. Now I’m excited for more people to discover the horror through the new Iron Banner armour sets added to Destiny 2 this week.
Lord Saladin arrived last night to host Season Of The Lost’s first Iron Banner PvP event, bringing with him a brand new set of armour for each class. Some have observed that the Iron Forerunner sets seem inspired by a Sardian village’s festival tradition of costumed mamuthones and issohadores, particularly the mamuthones wrapped in furry coats bristling with bells rang by cowbone. It’s a pretty neat look. It’s also horrifying to some players.
“To the person who designed the Iron Forerunner Cloak…” begins one Reddit thread. “Who hurt you?? This thing is a trypophobic nightmare 🤢”
Another Guardian replied, “I was so happy for this armor when they revealed it but they definitely did not showcase how many gross holes would be it each set! Nope nope nope.” One said the cape “gives me the heebie jeebies”. Another added “I legit got shivers from that cloak.” Though one scamp said, “I’m actually considering wearing it to creep people out.”
I am concerned by the Guardian who noted that it “made me itch”, adding that they “felt the same way when I first saw the inside of Buckwheat Pillows.” Wait what’s this about buckwheat pillows. I have buckwheat pillows. What’s inside. What cradles my dreaming head and whispers in my ear. Do I want to know.
It’s a similar story on Destiny’s fashion board, though with a thread containing some graphic images to startle folks. “I was literally just talking to a clan mate about it today. We both hate it,” one Guardian said in reply. “It makes us feel really uncomfortable and we will never use it.”
Trypophobia is a word seemingly coined in 2005 by someone in Ireland who ran a Geocities website “for all of us weirdoes who have an irrational fear of HOLES”. Please, take a moment to enjoy that site’s Word Art banner. She decided, “there is nothing preventing us calling our phobia anything we want! And this is why I have taken it upon myself to officially name this phobia: TRYPOPHOBIA.” I’m a big fan of making your own words real through sheer force of will. And it has become real, with the word since appearing in dictionaries and the condition being studied.
I first heard of trypophobia alongside badly Photoshopped images of human bodies—seed pods overlayed on skin to look like diseases, sandworm-esque rows of teeth in the place of fingernails, other body horror. I could see why what was unpleasant. I can see the body horror in real biology pointed to by trypophobics too, like Surinam toads with babies hatching from holes in their backs and giant water bugs carrying their clutch of eggs. But people who experience trypophobia also mention everyday objects including strawberries, sponges, honeycomb, cheesegraters, even this computer mouse Katharine reviewed. They do not like holehorrors or bumpdread.
While clearly a lot of people find these unpleasant, less certain is what trypophobia actually is. Is it a phobia? Is it mere revulsion? Is it an ancient evolutionary holdover warning us of dangers? As Insider reported in 2017, the field of psychology is uncertain and unconvinced by theories. But some researchers are curious about whatever it is people are experiencing. Me, I don’t know what trypophobia is but I do like to to believe its spread is another example of the Internet as a chaotic magic engine for building reality.
Give something a name and it becomes a solid idea. Show someone body horror while speaking that name and their revolusion proves it’s within them too. And I do think a lot of the spread of the concept of trypophobia is down to those janky seedboobs which got the idea rolling. Then bit by bit it grows, traces of it spreading out and infiltrating other spaces and ideas, growing and perpetuating itself. It’s kinda magic when the Internet manifests reality through belief, though often also horrible. Many recent horrors spawned online in this way, growing so fat on belief that by the time they manifest in reality (seemingly out of nowhere to the offline observer) they are untameable and unfathomably vast thrashing wurms. Magic, but horrifying. And while civilisation grew from communal belief, it could take decades, centuries; the Internet performs magic on a startling timescale.
I think my brain has backwards Internet biology. I find trypophobia-inducing images fascinating, but the supposedly pleasant tingle of ASMR is the most horrifying thing to me, as if the whispering hairdresser/doctor/masseur were trying to murder me by pouring spiders down my neck. Maybe ‘body wired poorly for Internet beliefs’ will one day be recognised as a medical condition.
Iron Banner runs until weekly reset on Tuesday then will return several times later in the season. In the Dark Age, we called this ‘fun’.