Thirteen-year-old Theresa Chuong (@rad.slime) says she makes about $1,000 a week selling the slime she creates at her home in Texas, charging $10-13 per 6-oz container. She stocks her shop on Saturdays and “sells out later that day, or Sunday morning at the latest.” Although slime supplies eat up about half of Theresa’s weekly earnings, she’s focused on the longterm: “I’ve been using the money to keep making more money and hopefully save up for college,” she says.
But the trend is more than a marketing ploy, and maybe that’s why it continues to grow—there’s an earnestness to the approach. The owners of these accounts simply like slime, and fell into the business of selling it to other people who feel the same way. For 23-year-old Prim Pattanaporn of @sparklygoo, who has a book called The Zen of Slime out next month, slime is even a form of creative expression: “It’s art,” she says. “There are so many possibilities with art.”
For some, the slime obsession is a little less…highbrow. “It’s a mindless thing to scroll through while I should be doing other things and I’ve exhausted my feed,” says 26-year-old Brooklynite Kate Weinreich, who got hooked on the trend via Instagram Discover. “It definitely satisfied some child-like fascination.”
Whether our time-killing mindless scrolls are filled with slime videos or food porn, the irony’s the same: We consume content that stimulates our brain’s pleasure centers, but we never receive the satisfaction of the experience being portrayed. Several studies have indicated that merely looking at photographs of food makes us hungrier—but the photos certainly don’t put the actual food in our mouths. Maybe the habit of the trance-like ogle is more about distracting ourselves just long enough to forget what’s outside the periphery of the screen. “These videos bring viewers into a simple world,” Richard, the ASMR researcher, says. “Or, as importantly, they remove them from a complex world.”
There’s another reason the food-porn comparison is apt: The food-like quality of slime may be simulating the survival instinct of discovering edible food. That’s right, cynics, our love of slime may be evolutionary. “Our brains are hardwired to associate bright and rich colors with fruits, vegetables, and their flowers,” Richard explains. “We evolved to respond to splashes of color because that might indicate, say, the presence of food in a forest.” Perhaps we relax in the presence of slime because the survival state of finding comestibles—simulated by bright colors and squishy, chewing-like noises—is one of respite.
Whatever the science, there’s something inherently comforting about stimuli that “get” to us on a deep, primitive level. Our screen-saturated culture is experiencing a crisis of physicality (it does not escape me that you are reading this on a screen), and maybe slime is its answer. What’s making us feel a little more human right now might just be a lump of gloppy goo and a delicate hand, poking and prodding it.