Word by Kelly Punzalan
There is a lot that older generations don’t understand about millennial and Gen Z culture from our memes to online celebrities to TikTok videos. I have to admit, sometimes even I don’t get it. What exactly is the appeal of random people recording themselves lipsyncing to a 10-second snippet of a song? Beats me. But there’s an even stranger phenomenon that I stumbled upon when I got lost in the sea of online cat videos and somehow ended up on the weird side of the Internet: subliminal videos.
Subliminal messaging isn’t a new concept. It’s a well-known advertising tactic used by brands to change consumers’ perception of certain products or to convince us to buy their products through undetectable visual or auditory stimuli. The message is only audible to our subconscious mind, so we’re completely unaware we’re receiving it in the first place. It’s a bit like hypnosis. The thing is, it hasn’t actually been proven to be 100% effective, which is why I was utterly confused when I discovered the world of YouTube subliminals.
Some of them are pretty normal and seem to have some degree of legitimacy, like the ones that claim to enhance concentration and memory. I can buy that. The human brain is extremely complex, so maybe subliminal messages can help us focus better. I’ve also seen videos that apparently give you the ability to ace exams and get high grades without studying. Okay, a bit questionable, but who knows? And if you look even deeper, you’ll find videos that claim to change your physical appearance through positive affirmations. Um, the brain is pretty powerful, but I don’t think it’s that powerful.
In the name of science, I decided to watch/listen to one of these videos, namely one called the Mega Beauty Combo. According to the person who made this, I’m going to get caramel toned skin, hazel green eyes, a sharp jawline, straight pearly white teeth, big boobs, a small waist, wide hips, high self-esteem, and everyone will want to be my friend or date me. Basically, I’m going to magically transform into a perfect Barbie doll Instagram model afterward. Yeah, screw genetics and biology! I can change my bone structure and the color of my skin with my mind. Spoiler alert: Nothing happened.
Most of these subliminal videos are just 30-minute song loops over still pictures of the supposed results you’re going to have. If you increase the volume, you can actually hear a robotic Siri-esque voice repeating things like, “I have extremely clear and flawless skin,” “My waist is becoming smaller,” and “I have beautiful long blonde locks of hair” (even if you have naturally black hair) as if hearing these over and over again is going to make a difference. Saying that it’s creepy is an understatement.
And if the Mega Beauty Combo wasn’t bad enough, there are even more ridiculous subliminals such as “Look Like a Korean Girl Overnight,” and “Get Cardi B’s Personality.” The worst part is that young girls, the main target audience of these videos, believe that these are effective. Scrolling through the comments section, you’ll see a lot that say they listen to subliminals every day and that they’re already experiencing results, complete with daily updates. It’s hard to tell if they’re lying just to mess with people, or if they have, in a way, become delusional.
The most problematic thing about subliminal message videos is that they obviously prey on people with low self-esteem and body insecurity issues. The creators of these videos (monetized videos, in fact) lure people in with promises that they will somehow look and feel different and fit into conventional beauty standards, all for views and profit. The people who watch these in a serious manner most likely have some degree of body dysmorphia, and the comments are pretty telling of that. If the sole purpose was to raise people’s confidence in themselves, there would be nothing wrong with that, except a number of them have genuinely convinced themselves that their stomach is getting flatter, they’re starting to look like a certain celebrity, or that they’re beginning to look like a different ethnicity entirely. When you add listening to hidden distorted voices and sounds to that, the whole thing is quite disturbing.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen on the Internet recently?