The internet may be weird, but YouTube communities are even weirder. One such community is the subliminal community.
A little introduction to subliminals: there is usually two types of these videos. Audio subliminals are usually made up of indiscernible jabbering overshadowed by random music. The second type is visual subliminals. Like the name suggests, they flash positive affirmations in a rapid fashion repeatedly. The aforementioned jabbering and affirmations are apparently subconscious messages that are meant to reprogram our brain.
Subliminal users believe that these masked messages enter our subconscious mind and biohack it to get a person's desired result. There's a subliminal for just about everything under the sun, from gaining self-confidence to turning yourself into a mermaid (you read that correctly). As far-fetched as they may seem, there are subliminal videos on YouTube with hundreds of positive reviews, praising their efficacy. There's even a Reddit community with people posting before and after photos of their subliminal journey. However, everything has a dark side. Some channels have been accused of hiding apocryphal messages and causing nightmares, to the point that they had to be removed from YouTube altogether.
There was an online petition to take down the channel Mind Power, as users accused it of brainwashing. Another YouTuber, Rose Subliminals, admitted to putting negative affirmations in her work. However, the majority of mainstream subliminal channels such as Akuo Subliminals, Quadible Integrity, Luminalplay, are safe to watch.
At their core, subliminals are based on the Law of Attraction, a pseudoscience which philosophises that people's thoughts attract their results. While there is no scientific basis for the Law of Attraction, proponents of this philosophy use theories from psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology to argue in favour of it. While subliminals' popularity peaked in 2019, the concept itself dates back to the late 1800s. It was even used to teach soldiers in World War II to identify enemy planes. Widespread concern about this method first arose in 1957, when James Vicary claimed that he had increased sales in Coca Cola and popcorn in a movie theatre through subliminal manipulation. He retracted his claim later on after failing to replicate similar results in another study. Popular movies like The Exorcist have been known to use subliminal messages to terrify their audience.
There is a fair number of conflicting opinions on whether subliminals work or not. A study from the University of Texas at Austin found that the effects of these subconscious messages only lasted less than five minutes. Another study showed that the subliminals only worked when negative messages were being delivered. Some believe that it can only change a person's mindset and motivate them while others are convinced it can alter human DNA and break the laws of physics. In a nutshell, there's no definite consensus on this issue. Meanwhile, it can't hurt to try transforming into the mermaid you were always destined to be.
1. Undergraduate Honors Thesis, University of Florida, Florida (2006). Invisible Commercials and Hidden Persuaders: James M. Vicary and the Subliminal Advertising Controversy of 1957
2. Journal of Behavioral Optometry (2003). The Tachistoscope: Its History and Uses
Ziba Mahdi is your resident pessimist. Cheer her up at www.facebook.com/ziba.mahdi.735