[whispers] Hey… it’s me.
In the bizarre world of Youtube, there is a select group of people who find joy in watching satisfying videos of seemingly random things. If soap cutting videos, mukbang videos and *gasp* destroying makeup videos aren’t cutting it anymore, you might want to turn to ASMR videos.
Let me introduce you to the wacky world of ASMR, where viewers are currently into dandruff scratching videos.
Okay, that was a bad video to start off with. But as repulsive as that video was, there is a whole community devoted to ASMR that is more than dandruff picking.
There are entire Youtube channels where people put up 20 to 30 minute long videos of themselves whispering into mics and crumpling plastic. Yes, that’s right. People are spending hours watching someone whisper soothing words seductively into a mic and stroking the screen just to experience that little tingle running down their spine.
Just type in ‘ASMR’ into Youtube, and you’ll find over 5 million hits. Intrigued by what other people would find stimulating, I clicked on the very first video on the list, which happened to be ‘ASMR Massaging Your Face (Lotion sounds, Face tapping, Face brushing, Cottons)’ by a Youtuber called ASMR Glow. Sharon tells me all about her new Pixi Glow Tonic in muted whispers as she shakes the bottle, before noisily opening the cap. There isn’t anything exciting happening, but for some reason, I felt compelled to keep watching the video.
And that, my friends, is when I realised that I had gotten hooked into the hypnotic world of ASMR, dandruff scratching videos not included.
WHAT EXACTLY IS ASMR?
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. In everyday English, it refers to the pleasant tingles that you feel at the back of your head and down your spine when you hear or see certain sounds or actions – kind of like an orgasm for your brain. Listening to ASMR is supposedly relaxing and calming, and some people even watch ASMR videos to fall asleep.
Most videos involve whispering, some sort of calming hand movements, nail tapping and brushing sounds. Some videos can include chewing, speaking in monotone, rubbing lotion and even videos of people massaging each other. Even smiling and the sound of the vacuum cleaner can be triggers.
Haircut videos are also popular, and it turns out that personal attention ie. the feeling of getting your hair washed and cut by your hairdresser is comforting to some. I know a friend who would make a trip to the hairdresser just to wash her hair, and the only reason she gives is that “it feels nice” while her mom blames it on her laziness to wash her hair herself.
The phenomenon that took the internet by storm has become so popular that there are even celebrity ASMR interviews, where celebrities like Margot Robbie and Jennifer Garner answer questions in whispers and even eat in front of the camera.
Currently, there isn’t a lot of published research on ASMR, which makes it hard to define it as a phenomenon. Some say that ASMR sensitivity is on a spectrum, and that you just have to find the right trigger to experience the tingly sensation. Others compare these tingling sensations to orgasms, even though ASMR is not sexual stimulation. You can get turned on sexually, but most people just say that ASMR makes them feel good.
I guess this can be compared to how some people find rain and the ocean waves calming – who knows you might have already been feeling these triggers and enjoying those calming sensations without knowing that there is a proper phrase for it.
The first formal study on ASMR was released in 2015, and it suggested that ASMR could also improve mood and pain systems, and possibly provide temporary relief for depression. While there is much scepticism about ASMR, it seems like there is a growing community of people who believe in it.
If you’re keen on trying ASMR, get a pair of headphones, tuck yourself into bed with your phone or tablet. You can watch the ASMR videos on a laptop, but I personally found that my phone made the watching experience much more intimate, almost as if the person was right in front of me.
From the first whisper, I could feel the back of my neck tingling, but I couldn’t decide whether I found it pleasant or it was the ‘something is not right’ kind of tingling you get when you’re in a creepy place. I wasn’t sure if the video actually made me so relaxed or I was just tired, but I fell asleep halfway through the very first video I watched.
My colleague who experiences AMSR said that she loved eating sounds like the sound of crunchy cucumber. I can’t stand eating sounds, but I found myself gravitating towards keyboard typing sounds. Other sounds that I love is the sound of nails tapping on ceramic, the sound of fizzy drinks being poured and paper rustling; I could listen to those videos for hours (and that’s saying something as I’ve watched plenty of videos for this article alone). I found myself going back to Sharon from ASMR Glow because I liked the sound of her voice too.
I also realised that the visuals played a huge part on whether I enjoyed the video or not. I couldn’t stand the chewing sounds of mukbang videos or this 10 minute video of someone eating fries, but I loved this ASMR video of BTS eating fried chicken. But then again, BTS could do anything and I’ll still watch it (also, I like fried chicken).
A quick scroll in the comments section on various ASMR videos revealed that some people feel the tingles from just audio or visual cues, but others would need a combination both to feel the same tingles.
For those who aren’t captivated by this trend yet, give this one last video a try. If you’re still not feeling it, maybe you’re just too desensitised. Don’t worry because not everyone experiences ASMR.