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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at GCU chapter.

Countless videos on YouTube claim to change the viewer’s face, body, and personality just by listening to them. They’re called “subliminals.”

Subliminal messages are hidden sayings designed to be perceived by the subconscious mind. People may be unaware they are hearing, seeing, or interacting with subliminal messages. It’s used a lot in advertising. For example, you may see hidden messages or images in business logos.

YouTube has many subliminal-related channels, where people listen to music with hidden audio messages subtly playing in the background. The hidden audio sounds like affirmations being repeated. Most thumbnails relate to body image, like “get a snatched waist” or “morph your facial features.” In some of the videos, the background audio can be heard clearly. It’s unsettling to hear “I HAVE A SMALL BUTTON NOSE” being repeated behind blaring Ariana Grande music.   

These videos are concerning for their main audience: women and teenage girls. According to the National Organization for Women, “At age thirteen, 53 percent of American girls are ‘unhappy with their bodies.’ This grows to 78 percent by the time girls reach seventeen.” Another issue with these channels is that they make lots of money off people’s insecurities. Tons of videos accumulate revenue through ads, the number of viewers, and sponsorships.

The desired shift in appearance never comes true; all the videos do is project an unattainable standard. If subliminal videos worked, I would have clear skin and no armpit hair. There’s a big difference between affirmations and lies. I think it’s fine for people to say positive affirmations (like compliments) over themselves. However, when it comes to claiming that one’s physical makeup can shift if they listen to these videos, it’s most likely untrue.

To test this, I listened to this subliminal with over one million views. It claims to change your eye color to blue. After listening to the entire thing, I can say with confidence that I still have green eyes. The comment section claims that the subliminal works if you listen to it repeatedly. Some people even described how their eye color changed over time. Of course, there’s no photo evidence to back up these claims of altered irises.

Certain channels take matters very seriously. One video about attracting a boyfriend warns viewers in the title to not overuse the subliminal. I’m quaking in my boots; what would happen if I listened to it too much? Would my nonexistent boyfriend be cast under a love spell and follow me around like a lost puppy? I don’t want to try that out.

Some audiences believe in subliminal videos because of the placebo effect. The placebo effect is when a person’s health seems to change and get better after a fake treatment. It appears real but does not have any proven benefits. Others think that feeding information into one’s subconscious tricks the mind and/or universe into making desires a reality. Although these beliefs don’t necessarily harm anyone, it may not be beneficial for one’s mental health to engage with subliminal videos that have such lofty claims.

Advice for myself: Don’t watch videos that promise to give you blue eyes and a clingy boyfriend.  

Emily is a Professional Writing major at GCU. She is expected to graduate with her bachelor's degree in Spring 2024. She loves writing about the environment, history and self-care. Her interests include anything with glitter, playing video games, slamming out tunes on the piano and lying down on grass in the summer.