Okay, science may never explain the shoe thing. But scroll through these lists, and the array of triggers is largely consistent: classical music, haircuts, movie trailers, Bob Ross, more Bob Ross, lots of Bob Ross, the painter best known for his popular instructional videos. Forget the bucolic landscapes; these Ross fans are fixated on his calming baritone and the rustle of his brush on the canvas.
I’m not really sure if I have ASMR or not – I literally discovered it was an actual thing a few minutes ago – but I am very sensitive to sounds. Certain chord progressions or note progressions in songs, and other sounds like people eating watermelon give me the tingling feeling described. But I also get the opposite. For some reason, certain sounds make me feel queasy and sick (like the sound of someone pulling a string through their fingers). Is this ASMR, or related? Or if it’s not, does anyone know what that is?
ASMR doesn’t work for everyone and it can be tough to imagine the sensation if you don’t experience it first-hand. For most people who do experience it, the blissful tingling starts up in the scalp and then makes its way through the body to the arms and legs. And as a result, it can trigger a feeling of relaxation before bedtime, which can help you overcome insomnia. The audio/video segments are long—in fact, some last up to an hour. They are lengthy so that you can keep watching or listening to them until you drift off.
As awareness of the ASMR phenomenon has gone more mainstream in recent years thanks to the internet, videos and entire channels dedicated to ASMR began to appear on YouTube, which is how I discovered the experience I had with my uncle had a name. It’s through these videos that both people who have had ASMR episodes in the past and tinglehead wannabes hope to replicate the experience.
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.
The bizarreness of this footage means ASMR isn’t without controversies. In June 2018, the Chinese government banned ASMR videos, branding them “vulgar” and “pornographic”. In August, PayPal began blocking the accounts of ASMRtists who received money to make custom videos (although the company later denied it has a policy against ASMR content). For those who don’t experience ASMR, the videos can seem fetishistic. Beyond the weirdness of whispering and making “mouth sounds” as in Kelly’s honeycomb video, some people nickname ASMR a “brain orgasm”.
Creators like Heather Feather are making videos that create the tingly ASMR effect. In fact, there are currently about 5.2 million ASMR videos on YouTube, and there is interest coming from all corners of the globe (see chart below). YouTube searches for ASMR grew over 200% YoY in 2015 and are consistently growing.3 On its own, a top ASMR video can garner over 16 million views.
The study is still ongoing, and results have not yet been published. But for his part, Richard has been developing a theory of what ASMR is and why it exists. His theory isn't exactly scientific, but it is beautiful: He notes that the quality that underlies almost all ASMR videos is what’s been called a “tranquil, womb-like intimacy.” That is, ASMRtists speak softly into the ears of headphone-wearing viewers, gently coaxing them to sleep by way of assiduous personal attention, comforting words, smiles and simulated stroking. At its most essential level, Richard believes, all the intimacy channeled through towel foldings and whispered affection is about triggering the felt experience of being loved.
So. I found out about this roughly… an hour ago. And holy… what an hour it’s been. I didn’t even know I could feel this type of stuff (although for most it seems to be in their head/scalp/neck etc, for me, it’s in my chest.). My biggest trigger seem to be taps… from the crisp tap to a low thump. One thing I am noticing though, is how many girls do the videos (I can understand this, as a female voice generally has a more relaxing effect.) but I was wondering how many people prefer a male voice? Any preference to accents, etc.
ASMR is usually precipitated by stimuli referred to as 'triggers'. ASMR triggers, which are most commonly auditory and visual, may be encountered through the interpersonal interactions of daily life. Additionally, ASMR is often triggered by exposure to specific audio and video. Such media may be specially made with the specific purpose of triggering ASMR or originally created for other purposes and later discovered to be effective as a trigger of the experience.