Hear here: That tingle you feel in the nethers is your ASMR
It's the sensation you get from listening to certain sounds. Who knew? Go check it out on YouTube ...
One of the best things about the Internet is the sense of community and normalcy it provides. For instance, those of us (yes, me) who enjoy popping pimples and watching pus ooze out, or squeezing a blackhead, don’t feel so alone anymore in our “weird” interest. Pimple popping videos have become so massive that one of the genre’s most-loved stars, Dr Sandra Lee (aka Dr Pimple Popper), now has her own TV show on the TLC channel.
Another “underground” community that’s quickly gaining mainstream attention are the ASMRists – people who create or consume ASMR videos.
So, just what is ASMR?
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response refers to the physical tingling sensation some people get from listening to certain sounds. The earliest known example of the term ASMR dates back to 2010, when a Facebook group called ASMR Group was established.
In an interview with ASMR University, the woman behind the term (and FB group), Jennifer Allen said: “I came up with a lot of ideas, trying to think of one that would capture the key components of the sensation without the possibility of being too embarrassing or too removed from the actual experience. I ended up listing the key characteristics and then looked for terms that would adequately describe each one. In retrospect, a shorter term would have been easier for some people to digest, and I’ve heard a lot of criticism that the name is pseudoscientific. I think there was no winning on that subject – I either chose a cutesy, simplistic name, or picked words objectively and literately (yes, it turns out you can use a dictionary without a PhD).”
ASMR has thrived on YouTube, where there are over 13 million ASMR videos. They range from people recording their chewing sounds, to whispering, to quiet haircuts; people crinkling up paper and various forms of packaging; tapping objects with their fingers (from jars to tabletops to cans); even to people putting on skits. One thing they all have in common is whispering and soft sounds (no shouting, please).
Just how popular is ASMR? According to a 2016 Think With Google article , “ASMR” was more searched for on YouTube than “chocolate” or “candy”. Below is a 2016 graphic that shows in the world ASMR content is popular:
Even celebrities have jumped on the ASMR bandwagon. Janet Jackson (who whispers in her music anyway), Eva Longoria and Jennifer Garner have recorded ASMR videos.
Even CollegeHumor has had a (rather hilarious) go at ASMR with this video:
What’s the science behind it?
While various ASMR websites explore the supposed science behind it, until recently there weren’t any major scientific studies behind the phenomenon.
In June 2018, the first study on the physiological effects of ASMR was published by the University of Sheffield’s psychology department. It looked at whether or not ASMR videos did, in fact, lower heart rates and relax viewers.
The University’s Dr Giulia Poerio told Science Daily: “Our studies show that ASMR videos do indeed have the relaxing effect anecdotally reported by experiencers – but only in people who experience the feeling ... What’s interesting is that the average reductions in heart rate experienced by our ASMR participants was comparable to other research findings on the physiological effects of stress-reduction techniques such as music and mindfulness.”
So if you’re looking for a new method of relaxation, perhaps it’s time to join the ASMR universe. Here are some popular ASMRists to get you started:
Life with Mak
One of the biggest stars on the scene is 13-year-old Makenna. Her YouTube channel, Life with Mak (“meaning, acceptance and kindness”), has 985,000 subscribers.
Her videos are often funny and satirical. Sure, she has some videos where she’s eating, but most of them feature her playing various characters in different scenarios (from a rude first class flight attendant to a much ruder dentist).
Snippets of her videos are often used as memes on Twitter. Makenna is also popular on Instagram where she has 399,000 followers.
Spirit Payton aka ASMRTheChew has 500,000 subscribers on her channel, and her most popular videos are of her chewing (yes, you read right). Viewers put in requests for what they would like to watch and hear her chewing, from pickles and marshmallows to noodles and, of course, bubblegum.
Her videos are specifically tagged as videos she’s recorded to trigger relaxation and/or sleep. In her “About” section, she specifies that her videos provide “triggers for tingles, comfort, relaxation, meditation and therapy”.
If you prefer your videos to have more of a fantastical storyline, Erin Timoney’s Goodnight Moon channel (368,000 subscribers) is for you. Originally a makeup vlogger, her ASMR channel features her playing various characters in a weird and witchy town straight from her imagination.
Makeup and ASMR make good bedfellows, as Sharon Dubois’s ASMR Glow channel (524,000 subscribers) shows.
Her videos often feature her providing viewers with triggers to give them tingles, such as the sound of a makeup brush, barber scissors, latex gloves and water spray sounds. She also whispers her makeup tutorials. At the very least, her videos have really good lighting and dope makeup.
Go on then and get your ASMR on!