Aside from the pleasurable sensation that ASMR offers there are a range of other benefits. Many intentional ASMR videos are essentially forms of guided meditations, meditating regularly has been shown to reduce stress levels and aid concentration among many other things. For a lot of people ASMR is a gateway to developing an ongoing meditative practice.
Mockery is a problem for any child in the limelight – one of Jacob Daniel’s fellow ASMRtist United founders quit YouTube after being picked on at school. Kelly says there are rumours that one girl at school said she was “annoying”, but most people think her channel is “cool”. Yet Kelly isn’t just a famous ASMRtist – she is also a meme. On social media, people edit her videos into short clips and share them with relatable captions.
It can often just start with a softly breathed “hellohellohello.” By now, if you’ve got a favourite genre of ASMR content, you probably know what it is. I still have to google what ASMR stands for (Autonomous sensory meridian response—why can I never remember this?) but spend about half of my working day listening to Korean women or Spanish men whispering and tapping cardboard boxes anyway. Look, it helps me concentrate. These are the basics: ASMR makes your body and brain tingle, in a way that is not sexual and not weird. It’s sort of like a massage coming from inside your head, through sound. Those sounds can be anything from light stroking (shout out to Tenaqui using acrylic nails on an eyeshadow palette), to brushing straight fine hair, crunching on fried chicken skin, whispering about crystals, literally saying “sksksk” and rubbing your fingers together real fast like you’re trying to get rid of stray cat hairs.
But the phenomenon has nonetheless burst into the mainstream, thanks to mounting media coverage and a few high-profile references: “Saturday Night Live” alum Molly Shannon gushed to Conan O’Brien about her “head orgasms,” induced by the methodical touch of airport security pat-downs; novelist Andrea Seigel shared her experience with ASMR on the radio program “This American Life” last year; the “Dr. Oz” show has featured ASMR videos as a way to ease insomnia.
I would spend all Friday, Saturday drawing outlines with my 3 best friends, discussing art, colour and symmetry for hours, then spend all Saturday night bombing trains, painting together would activate it intensely, in the dark, spooky and exhilarating all at the same time, while four kids spent their weekends silently breaking the law to paint Top-to-Bottom Wholecars just for art’s sake)
One category depends upon external triggers in order to experience the localized sensation and its associated feelings, which typically originates in the head, often reaching down the neck and sometimes the upper back. The other category can intentionally augment the sensation and feelings through attentional control, without dependence upon external stimuli, or 'triggers', in a manner compared by some subjects to their experience of meditation.
Maria says that she hears from subscribers, including doctors and psychologists, who are excited by the ASMR research. But mostly, she gets thank-you notes — from people with anxiety or sleep disorders, from overwhelmed college students struggling through exam week, from military veterans who tell her that her videos offer a sense of calm that they can’t find elsewhere.
As for what can trigger episodes in people, it almost always involves close interaction with another person. Usually, that other person is speaking to you in soft or deep tones, and always kindly. There’s usually also a component of adjacent sound coming from an inanimate object that, in conjunction with a person’s voice, helps trigger the episode. This can be the sound of scissor blades scraping together during a haircut, the sound of someone turning magazine pages, or, in my case, the sound of pennies sliding across concrete.
Bob Ross ALWAYS triggers this response (I have 15+ Joy of Painting episodes saved on my DVR right now). While all the other videos triggered my ASMR somewhat, the Rushka tea one had the most effect. I also like to watch people doing crafts (the sound of scissors cutting construction paper is amazing). Getting a massage or just watching someone get a massage (I can even read the description of spa treatments & have an ASMR response!) I love my hair to be played with too! As you probably know, the list can go on forever!!
Richard suggests that the “extreme relaxation” of ASMR may be the mirror image of panic attacks, residing at the far end of the relaxation spectrum. If, as his data so far shows, three-quarters of his subjects use ASMR videos to help them sleep, a third say the videos help them “feel less sad,” and smaller percentages use the videos to deal with diagnosed anxiety disorders and depression, ASMR could one day have therapeutic applications, he argues.