A study done by Google, the parent company of YouTube states, ASMR videos are mostly watched by people between the ages of 18 and 24. Osbourn has noticed this trend and thinks there’s a correlation with mental health. “Our generation is more open to talking about mental health, we are so much more aware of ‘I’m struggling mentally, and I need help, and I’m going to find the help that I need,’ than any other generation, in my opinion,” she said.
I have experienced this sensation for years and whenever I try to explain it to others they look at me as if I am strange. This happens to me every day when one particular delivery man comes to my office to bring parcels, he has such a quiet voice, and a slow methodical way about him. I wish he would stay longer so I could enjoy the sensation for longer !
The term ASMR was coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, a 39-year-old penetration tester. “For years I thought, ‘Jeez, maybe I have a brain tumour or something,’” she recalls. From 1999 onwards, Allen searched steadfastly for others like her online. In the late noughties, she stumbled upon a SteadyHealth.com forum in which a user named okaywhatever51838 discussed a “weird sensation” that “feels good”.
Wow, this actually has a name!! I’ve been experiencing this every since I was a little girl – I respond to all three triggers. I always wondered what this was and it just never occurred to me that other people might be experiencing what I did (in particular, the auditory and visual triggers). These experiences are so unbelievably pleasant and ultra-relaxing. Trance-like, out-of-body even…I just go to another place. I have a vague recollection of trying to describe what I was feeling to friends throughout my childhood and just beyond and they had no idea what I was talking about/looked at me like I was a little out there. So I’ve considered it a uniquely personal experience up until now. Very cool! I’ve got some research to do and some amazing relaxing videos to watch.
Jacob Daniel is clearly a savvy child – although excitable and eccentric, he talks soberly about safety on YouTube, clapping his hands as he tells children to “be, be safe”. He tells kids to use fake names, access their email with VPNs, and avoid making custom Skype calls with viewers. For all his intelligence, however, Daniel is still a child. He and Prunkl show off a series of wigs they play with at home – he dons a purple one with red horns; Prunkl shows me her doll. They talk excitedly about the pranks they play on the public, wearing the wigs to order food in take-away shops.
Kelly knows that she inspires other kids to take up ASMR – children at school ask for advice on how to make popular YouTube videos. At one football game recently, kids swamped Kelly for photos. “It was like… crazy,” Kelly whispers dramatically. “I went with friends and we walked past this group of cheerleaders and they all got quiet. They came up one after another and were like, ‘Let’s take a picture.’”
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, is a curious phenomenon. Those who experience it often characterise it as a tingling sensation in the back of the head or neck, or another part of the body, in response to some sort of sensory stimulus. That stimulus could be anything, but over the past few years, a subculture has developed around YouTube videos, and their growing popularity was the focus of a video posted on the Guardian this last week. It’s well worth a watch, but I couldn’t help but feel it would have been a bit more interesting if there had been some scientific background in it. The trouble is, there isn’t actually much research on ASMR out there.
In the first peer-reviewed article on ASMR, published in Perspectives in Biology in summer 2013, Nitin Ahuja, who was at the time of publication a medical resident at the University of Virginia, invited conjecture on whether the receipt of simulated medical attention might have some tangible therapeutic value for the recipient, comparing the purported positive outcome of clinical role play ASMR videos with the themes of the novel Love in the Ruins by author and physician Walker Percy, published in 1971.