Meet the silent vloggers of YouTube, hypnotising their audience with deeply meditative content

By Malavika Pradeep

Published Jun 15, 2021 at 10:50 AM

Reading time: 5 minutes

It’s 10 a.m as a young woman stands in her dorm room, carefully garnishing a bowl of steel-cut oats with apples, bananas and a spoonful of yoghurt. “I finally graduated college,” the closed captions read, in both English and Korean. Successfully closing a chapter of her life, the vlogger shares her views on the importance of living in the moment while dipping a sliced apple in yoghurt. “I’m learning that things always work out in their own time,” she continuesengaging in a visual monologue with her audience but having a bigger impact than an auditory one. Welcome to the deeply meditative world of silent vlogs, a content subgenre you stumble across on YouTube for the aesthetics but stay for the life lessons.

What are silent vlogs?

Part of a broader movement towards ‘slow living’, silent vlogs are characterised by the absence of both auditory monologues and dialogues. In essence, you would be greeted with the sounds of life—drawing of curtains, boiling of water, sizzling of a pan—in stark contrast to the overused “Hey guys.” The nature of the content is predominantly domestic. The vloggers here are mostly anonymous. Think minimalism and mindfulness, effortlessly weaved into a soothing narrative to embrace viewers with the euphoria of less.

Featuring vloggers carrying out their daily chores, from making their beds in the morning to wiping down the kitchen counters at night, silent vlogs essentially reframe mundane activities into tiny, hypnotic celebrations of their own.

“I started vlogging purely for myself and as a side hobby,” said Soo Hyun, a silent vlogger well known for her ‘College student in Korea’ vlogs on YouTube. “I started during my senior year of university when most of my friends were either taking a semester off or taking online classes from home due to COVID-19—so I had a lot of free time on my hands.” Publishing her first silent vlog back in February 2020, Soo Hyun admitted to starting her YouTube channel with the aim of leaving behind a virtual record of her university days. “I wanted to reflect on myself and the kind of person I was, along with my hobbies and interests at the time.” Curating silent vlogs for herself to look back at, Soo Hyun never expected people to be actually interested in them.

With more than 144,000 views on her vlogs, the silent vlogger is currently on an influential path down silent YouTube. Amid cooking, cleaning her dorm room, attending online classes and getting a haircut, the silent vlogger channels mindfulness into her content. When asked if she practices what she preaches, Soo Hyun said, “Funnily enough, I often hear the words ‘meditative’ or ‘slow living’ used to describe my videos. It’s definitely not something I would have caught myself, so it’s interesting to hear my everyday life described that way.”

According to the vlogger, the ‘slow’ lifestyle choice is often looped into her videos because she does—or rather tries her best topractice mindfulness, prioritise productivity, and do at least one thing she enjoys every day.

A silent antidote for influencer culture

Silent vlogs have been gracing YouTube for more than five years, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 drove people to the confines of their own homes that the subgenre truly gained traction. With an increased time spent indoors came an increased motivation to elevate the space the time was spent at. The art of slow living and home maintenance boomed as viewers turned to silent vlogs to redefine the label ‘confines of their home’ to ‘comforts of their home’.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but COVID-19 was a part of the reason I started vlogging,” Soo Hyun explained when asked about her take on the pandemic-propelled boom of silent vlogging. “I think not being able to go out or see your friends often definitely makes you creative about the things you do indoors!”

Apart from reframing pandemic fatigue, however, silent vloggers are also credited with combating a concerning phenomenon: the mainstream influencer culture. In stark contrast to that vlogger channeling her inner ‘coconut girl’ in Bali and making boomerangs on a cruise ship, silent vloggers celebrate the little achievements we make every day in our lives. Their content alleviates stress instead of evoking envy to prime us for the advertisements that follow. You may have cooped up in a corner of your room watching anime all day and making dinner for yourself. But what a relief it is to watch someone else do it and assure you that it is okay to do nothing sometimes. Take a day off, celebrate the mundaneness and prepare yourself for the wave of productivity that follows.

When asked about the general responses Soo Hyun gets for her content, the silent vlogger explained how she often finds comments like “This helped me feel calm!” and “This inspired me to be productive!” in the comments section. “To even imagine that I may have that kind of impact on anyonejust through showing my daily life—is really amazing.” The vlogger also mentioned how she gets messages from young viewers asking for her advice on studying, mental health and productivity. “I’m no expert, but I try my best to be helpful,” Soo Hyun added. “It’s an honour that people even consider asking me.”

Although Soo Hyun thinks she has a lesser volume of subscribers when compared to other silent vloggers, she admitted to loving and appreciating the community and support that she continually receives from her audience on the platform.

A curious peek behind the scenes

Once you watch a silent vlog, you would be hit with a wave of curiosity before tumbling down a rabbit hole with no emergency exits. How do they channel such bliss in their videos? How do they film the same scene from different angles all by themselves? How long does that take them? And why can I hear this vlogger peel tangerines as clear as day? In a bid to quench your thirst for insights, we asked Soo Hyun herself to explain.

“It really depends on the vlog,” the silent vlogger said, when asked if her content requires pre-planning. “For example, my ‘Slow Seoul’ vlog, and my very last vlog as a college student were based on certain themes, so they took a bit more planning than usual.” But majorly, Soo Hyun admitted to filming random parts of her everyday life and stitching them together in a cohesive narrative later as they deem fit.

In terms of the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR (a fancy term for that tingly feeling that runs down to the base of your spine during auditory stimulation), silent vloggers are speculated to enhance the ‘sounds of life’ in order to curate ASMR for the soul. When asked about her views on the allegations and if she uses any special equipment to capture them, Soo Hyun mentioned how she has seen a lot of vloggers utilise ASMR in their silent vlogs, especially when cooking or eating. “I personally don’t have any special sound equipment, mostly because I’m often filming on-the-go, but I also really just like to retain the natural sounds and ambient noises of that moment,” she added.

Another aspect viewers out there are itching to ask a silent vlogger includes the prep and self-care practices that go behind the scenes. Since silent vloggers are anonymousin the sense they don’t essentially show their faces on camera—do they have any particular self-care practices for their hands and torso which are common features of such vlogs? Soo Hyun disagrees, adding how her videos are pretty raw and unpolished for the viewers to witness. “As I mentioned earlier, I started this as a hobby and as a way to just record my day-to-day life. I just take out my camera or phone and start filming whenever I want to share a part of my day.”

The tranquil way forward

Silent vlogs are undoubtedly redefining content creation in a pandemic-struck era. But while silent vloggers continue to make a tremendous impact on the lives of their viewers, it is also essential to keep track of how the content helps themselves as individuals. For Soo Hyun, currently a film and media arts graduate, silent vlogs have proven to be a good way for her to connect and review what she has learned. Filming, editing and posting her vlogs have also helped her keep in touch with one of her favorite hobbies.

In the next five years, Soo Hyun still hopes to continue vlogging. “I’m definitely getting busier now that I’ve started at a full-time job,” she said. “But I’d still like to continue using my channel as a way of keeping track of my life and being able to create videos as a hobby.”

And if you are looking to dip your toes into the calm seas of silent vlogging yourself, here’s what Soo Hyun advises: “It’s best to just be natural! I personally found my content to be at its best when I’m not really thinking about the camera or trying too hard to plan something out.” According to the vlogger, it is also important to retain your own aesthetic instead of copying others or going by a certain rule. “That’s what makes you and your content unique!”

Despite the auditory absence of a language, silent vlogs speak volumes and initiate a much-needed change of scenery within the four horizons we currently call walls. They remind you to stop and smell the roses in your three-ply masks. And for some, there is just no going back to vlogs that literally speak volumes.

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