In the pursuit of life hacks, one can be consumed by a madness. The whole world becomes both hammer and nail. Is a power cord a jump rope? Is a sponge a pincushion? With enough time, effort, and visits to the craft store, can anything become anything?
In the video above, from DIY YouTube channel LHack TV, hacks are stripped free of the context of the real world, transforming objects into other objects for the sake of it. They’re magic tricks without magic. A Tic Tac box and a spray nozzle become a spray bottle. (Just… get a bottle?) A bottlecap, a lollipop, and some hot glue become a crude stamp. (Why a lollipop and not a toothpick?)
At Select All, Brian Feldman compares the video to the creepy VHS in The Ring, an art-house film that kills its viewers.
The so-called “life hack” video above really belongs to the genre of the “oddly satisfying video”, where disembodied hands slice candy-coloured gels, mix viscous fluids, and trim objects to precise dimensions.
They are devoid of any content you could meaningfully convey to another human, but they’re perfect for YouTube’s recommendation algorithms, with their low production cost, simple thumbnails, and titles such as “You Will Want to Watch Til the End”. (They’re also the subject of an elegant short story by games journalist Leigh Alexander.)
Their appeal as a mundane magic trick is linked to the similar appeal of a household hack: It feels good to see things used in a surprising or “fitting” way.
But most good magic tricks have the same answer: The magician has put an inordinate amount of time into developing, practising, and performing the trick. So have the creators of “8 AWESOME COCA-COLA TRICKS!”, putting far more work than necessary into building each item.
Below, they create a Coke-flavoured ice cream topping by mixing Coca-Cola with sugar and powdered gelatin, then injecting it into an empty toothpaste tube and putting it in the fridge. The toothpaste tube is cleaned out and re-inflated offscreen, because witnessing that messy process would ruin the magic.
No one needs these hacks; probably no one will ever try them.
There’s a theory of fake news, that refuting and fact-checking it is pointless, because the people who pass it around don’t care if it’s true. They refuse to check before spreading the news because all they really want is an emotion, a justification for their pre-existing beliefs.
That, I believe, is the case with these videos; they speak the language of the hack, but they are made and spread with no regard to their value as hacks.
“Hack” is just a word that helps the “oddly satisfying video” invade the how-to section of YouTube. Like “HD” or “original”, “hack” is a previously meaningful word that now only exists to make a video show up in search results and “related” widgets.
So I don’t need to tell you to avoid these hacks. Even mocking them is besides the point. They exist to give you a feeling. And as fake news goes, you could do a lot worse.