Let me start from my personal experience. As a schoolboy, I had a particular French teacher whose voice would put me into a trance. As soon as she started talking, it felt like my brain would start tingling. Her measured cadence and accent felt almost like some sort of mind massage. It was incredibly relaxing – and felt amazing, almost like an audio version of one of these:
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.
Like many corners of the internet, there’s also a sense of comradery in being outside the norm. According to the Instagram user who runs an chalk-eating ASMR repost account, this has helped build trust in the community. “We all know we are a little left of average in what we find stimulates our ASMR experience, so there’s solidarity and kinship as well," the user said.
For those who don't experience ASMR, it can be difficult to wrap your head around this "tingling" feeling and how something as simple as whispering or clicking could trigger it. But recent research has shown that ASMR is more than just a self-reported feeling—it can be measured physiologically. A 2018 study published in the journal PLOS One found that people who watched ASMR videos had a decreased heart rate in response, which can explain the intense feeling of relaxation many people report. Researchers also recorded higher levels of skin conductance in people experiencing ASMR, indicating arousal or excitement (likely due to the tingles).
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”.
Incidentally, I’m now wondering if my embarrassing tendency to well up at almost any expression of art or culture (meaning that I’ve had to perfect a whole range of distraction techniques to prevent my neighbours on the sofa/gallery/theatre/cinema from realising I’m silently blubbing away) is part of this phenomenon. Even a well placed advert, I’m ashamed to say, can set me off. It didn’t occur to me until I found out about the Tingles (sorry, hate the scientised term ASMR) that the tear jerk response might be related to my other sensations. Any thoughts on that, anyone?
I’m slightly late to the asmr party – only just found out about it – and am still in disbelief.. Like a lot of people on here I’ve had it since childhood and thought I was the only person in the world who had it! Most intensely with dentists (talking to their assistants), school nurse inspections and air hostess safety demonstrations – the obvious ones let’s say – but also to a lesser degree with nature documentaries from the 1970s (British Columbia Forest documentaries) and the Open University (in the UK) course module videos, also from the 70s. Both of which featured fairly spaced out electronic music and softly spoken boffins..
The story follows Tom More, a psychiatrist living in a dystopian future who develops a device called the Ontological Lapsometer that, when traced across the scalp of a patient, detects the neurochemical correlation to a range of disturbances. In the course of the novel, More admits that the 'mere application of his device' to a patient's body 'results in the partial relief of his symptoms'.