The desperate faith of subliminal TikTok videos

tiktok subliminals

TikTok Subliminals promises you everything you could want.

Sloping noses, unblemished skin and plump pink lips have long faired on For You pages on TikTok. They have become popularized attributes of modern perfection.

For the most part, however, they are inaccessible, somewhat fashionable and fashionable clones of our time. But as viral makeup tutorials, exercise routines, and surgery stories go viral on the platform, there’s a niche side to the app that promises an easy fix for all of your “problems.” ‘self-image. All it involves is listening to audio, supposedly designed to hit your subconscious, on repeat.

They are called “Subliminals”: ​​videos created – or hosted – with the intention of using subliminal messages. Although they have been a staple on Youtube for several years, Subliminals have since made their way into the TikTok universe. They promise an answer to your manifestations, be it faster hair growth, a perfect smile or a change in the shape of your waistline.

Hidden “affirmation messages” are meant to play under sped-up or bass-enhanced music, while photos of conventionally attractive women – sometimes celebrities like Lily Rose Depp, Emily Ratajkowski or Kylie Jenner – serve as a backdrop. bottom. Although you cannot hear what is being said, the underlying message is meant to help you manifest your desires through the subconscious.

The first time I encountered subliminals was through an account named Lolabvnny. “My amazing subliminal results” read the video’s caption. It had 1.4 million views.

As the clip scrolled through images of customer comments, one user claimed her nostrils had shrunk in size, and another said she saw the tip of her nose turn into a ski slope. The last said that Bella Hadid loved her artwork.

“To put it briefly…,” Lolabvnny told VICE, “the advantage is that you get everything you want in a fairly short period of time, with almost no effort.

Lolabvnny claims that by using and creating subliminals, she changed her appearance and helped others manifest boyfriends, love, attention, and popularity.

“It’s quite simple, everything we say or think is sent out into the cosmos by energy. I’m sure many have encountered a phenomenon when they thought of something for a brief moment, or thought of something happening, and then it happened exactly the way they thought it would,” she said.

“That’s exactly what protesting is. Many times we send out a signal to the universe through our subconscious without even registering it.

Unfortunately for Lolabvnny, experts call bullshit.

Subliminal messaging has long been a contested topic, but it’s a phenomenon that continually comes up in conversations every few years – mostly due to the trend of new social media apps.

Associate Professor Daniel Little, from the Melbourne School of Psychological Services at the University of Melbourne, has studied and tested the effectiveness of subliminal messages for several years. He told VICE he couldn’t find any evidence that they actually work, especially not when it comes to changing physical appearance.

“So in the 1950s you had this subliminal advertising push where marketers were trying to sell popcorn in movie theaters using subliminal messages. And in the 1970s, there was this fear of government brainwashing. And then in the 1990s you had this new era, the self-help style, which is what this TikTok thing is,” he said.

“It will make its way into the public eye and will be promoted by some kind of fantastic claims, these claims will all be debunked, but it will remain. And part of the reason for that is if any misinformation gets out into the public , it is very difficult to correct it.”

Little calls it the “continuing influence effect,” referring to people relying on misinformation even though the theories have been debunked.

“We are not a very scientific culture. Science in the Western way of thinking is only about 300 to 400 years old,” Little said.

“We are a misdirected culture of faith. We put our faith in things that aren’t true, but have other effects, like making us believe things could be better. We have had unscientific explanations as part of our history for far longer than we have had scientific explanations.

As for subliminal messages in TikToks, Little takes issue with claims that they work, although he points to the placebo as a likely cause for more positive thinking (although certainly not for changing physical attributes).

He cites a study from the 1990s that sent self-help tapes to participants, claiming to improve either self-esteem or memory. Participants were told that the subliminal messages were hidden under the classical music, but for half the group the labels were reversed so the message didn’t match what the participants thought they were listening to.

“There was no improvement in memory, but whatever the label said, you thought there was improvement. And that’s the belief that dictates a placebo effect. It’s really the effect of subliminal messages, but only if you know they are there.

“If you don’t have a label, you wouldn’t have any increase in belief.”

Dr. Simon Ruch, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Neuromodulation and Neurotechnology at the University of Tübingenin in Germany, told VICE that the concept of physical change caused by subliminal messages “is just ridiculous”.

“In my experience, reaching the brain with information that cannot be perceived consciously is very difficult,” he said. “Some web browsers, screens, and headphones may not present the information at all.”

“You could say this is the business model of subliminals: a brief affirmation feels good, but brings no lasting improvement, causing consumers to come back to the same message over and over again. This is similar to the business models of fortune tellers and psychics.They provide a good feeling, but no real lasting solution to someone’s misery.This ensures that consumers/customers keep coming back.

Although many claim the benefits of subliminal videos, others have pointed to them as a deviant way to gain views, promotion and revenue by preying on people’s insecurities: “Play this video x3 to get the best results” is a common request.

Despite this, the subliminal community acts as a tight-knit space of believers waiting for a miracle. The comment sections on Lolabvnny’s videos often urge the creator to “keep her subscribers”: Let’s keep the community small, they say. Or some people won’t use them for good.

Of course, calls for access control have their own dramatic roots on the Internet, with accusations of subliminal murder, bad ethics and bad practices. Ultimately, however, these are the dramatic turf wars of an internet community born out of conspiracy.

What’s left is a loyal subliminal fan base that has become a sect of the TikTok community – one that’s based entirely on faith and less on science.

“I think the science is pretty settled,” Little said. “There have been a lot of studies in controlled situations and there is no evidence that subliminal messages work.”

“Each individual is entitled to their own type of pursuit of happiness, and I feel bad that I have to be the person who says, ‘this probably isn’t working’. But shouldn’t you learn the world as it is, rather than the world as you would like it to be?

Follow Julie Fenwick on Twitter and Instagram.

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