If you are an adult of a certain age, I won’t blame you for associating the word “slime” with politicians or journalists or other popular targets. Perhaps you didn’t notice Sanya Malhotra of Dangal telling an interviewer that her favourite thing on Instagram is the slime video.
The slime video is a wonderful enigma but before we get there we have to say hello to slime itself. A slinky, stretchy substance made with borax and glue, it lends itself to lots of fun variations for children with a flair for arts and crafts. You can add colour, glitter, crystals, make it glossy or crunchy. In 2017, when the slime trend took off because of the slime video, it caused a glue shortage in the US. Slime has somehow still stayed cool and the slime video has grown into one of the internet’s top trends.
Slime has two overlapping devotees. The tweens and teens who make slime and the tweens, teens and young adults who make the slime video. The first viral slime videos, starring fashion-forward girls, came from Thailand and Indonesia in 2016. Today, on Instagram, aka make-up heaven, there are subgenre slime pages dedicated to making slime with eyeshadow and lipstick. In India, the videos often take on a desi flavour of wanting to find affordable substitute ingredients, such as detergent and hand sanitizer. And the comments include those that remark on the young video creator’s English, how her “acting” is, and the occasional mournful comment that the commenter, who also makes slime, is not allowed to make slime videos.
At its simplest, a slime video is like the one that another Sanya (@sanya.chadha), a tween with purple bedroom walls, made in 2018. Sanya uploaded a basic video tutorial on YouTube of her making a glossy pink slime, and, then, lengthy shots of her playing with it (most slime is the colour of My Little Pony and Barbie put in a mixie). Sanya’s video has got over 12,000 views.
Then there is 24-year-old Karina Garcia, a waitress-turned internet slime queen whose DIY slime video-making hobby is now a million-dollar career. In 2018, designer Ryohei Kawanishi sent his models out on the runway covered in spectacularly coloured slime.
Unlike the makers of slime or slime videos, the watchers of slime videos are not usually young girls. I am only very slightly embarrassed to say the segment of Sanya’s hands playing with the pretty slime, is, as the popular hashtag goes, #oddlysatisfying. One of Garcia’s popular videos is the one in which she made a 45kg pastel-coloured, jiggly slime ball. “So much fun to play with!” the mellow, pretty Garcia says. This is one of the most pointless things I have ever watched but I sort of wanted to jump in and roll that alien baby around. And apparently I am not the only susceptible adult.
In 2018, slime videos got 25.4 billion views on YouTube and the majority of viewers were in the 25-34 age group.
While slime makers are enthusiastic about getting you on board to make and play, slime-video viewers are likely to steer your attention to other genres of #oddlysatisfying. They might even get all science-y on you and explain ASMR videos to you. Autonomous sensory meridian response videos are supposed to, in layman terms, give you a “braingasm”. ASMR videos can range from someone whispering gently or someone stirring soup or someone running a hair dryer. These videos of banal activities sometimes run for hours and are wildly popular. They are not as popular as cat videos but are more socially acceptable than admitting that you watch pimple-popping videos. Slime videos are considered ASMR-adjacent for their relaxing quality.
Slime videos are like porn for the hands. Unlike porn, the slime video seems to trigger a pleasant loop where the watchers are highly likely to turn into doers. And many of the doers do feel the impulse to then share the joy of making. More people have been searching on the internet for ways to make slime than ways to make bitcoins, which should give you a rare moment of giggly peace about the world. And then perhaps start you thinking if you can monetize your whisper.
The literal-minded stranger in the strange land of slime and slime-makers might still want to Gently Whisper: What do you do with slime once you make it? You put your hands on it and stretch it and poke it and play with it. If this leaves you puzzled, just remember that no one ever used the strange things we made in SUPW (socially useful productive work) and arts classes. They cracked, they leaked, and, mostly, they lacked. Slime, on the other hand, is just waiting to be passed to the other hand and do nothing. Breathe in. Breathe out. Slime.
Cheap Thrills is a fortnightly column about millennials, obsessions and secrets. Nisha Susan is the editor of the webzine The Ladies Finger.
She tweets at @chasingiamb