It might sound like a bafflingly bizarre way to spend time on the Internet. But for Maria’s viewers, her voice and movements hold a certain magic: They can instill tranquillity, overcome insomnia — and induce a mysterious physical sensation known as autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, wherein the body is flooded with waves of euphoric tingles.
The website for ASMRtist United looks remarkably like it was created by a child – which it was. Founded in August 2017 by 14-year-old Jacob Daniel, the “company” offers advice to ASMRtists under the age of 18. There is a guide on how to filter sexual comments, advice on coping with cyberbullying and a post entitled “How do I stop my school from finding my channel?”.
On June 3 2018, Makenna Kelly, a 13-year old from Fort Collins, Colorado, uploaded the video that propelled her to internet stardom. Entitled “Eating Raw Honeycomb – EXTREMELY Sticky Mouth Sounds”, it featured the teen chewing fistfuls of pure honeycomb directly in front of a microphone for 16 minutes. In the following months, it was viewed 12 million times. By October, Kelly had reached one million YouTube subscribers.
Try out a few of the most popular ASMRists (as they're known) on YouTube, like Ilse of TheWaterWhispers, Maria of GentleWhispering, or Taylor of ASMR Darling. Each of these channels covers a range of triggers and, while some videos last upwards of 30 minutes, most ASMR enthusiasts report tingling after only a few minutes of concentrating on the sounds.
The ASMR sensation is incredibly relaxing and the videos made on Youtube are to trigger that feeling. However since they began in 2009 their popularity has grown very quickly and a huge worldwide community alongside. Viewers describe how watching ASMR videos specifically have helped them to overcome insomnia, anxiety, PTSD and times of depression. As well as using them for general relaxation, pain management, focus meditation during childbirth, a means of falling asleep quickly and background sounds during the night or during study. Viewers find the content creator’s videos to be nurturing and comforting too. We’re also seeing more and more testimonies from parents with Autistic children who use the videos for sensory stimulation and those who simply like to enjoy cuddle time with their little ones whilst watching.
“I don’t think enough is done,” Fleck says. “This little girl was wearing sweatshirts with her school’s name on them, you have the danger of being doxxed, people finding out where you are.” Thankfully, Fleck feels the ASMR community look out for each other. “It’s just a little difficult because other than reaching out to get YouTube to do something, we’re kind of powerless.”
In a 2012 blog post, Steven Novella, an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, compared ASMR to migraine headaches — “We know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history,” he wrote — and theorized that ASMR could even be a type of “pleasurable” seizure.
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.’”
For instance, you’re probably familiar with soap cutting ASMR videos, which sound like a xylophone, or emptying a bag of Scrabble letters onto a table. But more broadly, ASMR posts generally seek to trigger an autonomous sensory meridian response—a tingly feeling provoked by certain noises and sensory inputs. The community is huge: there are currently over 5.3 million Instagram posts tagged under #ASMR on Instagram (the genre is hugely popular on YouTube, too.)
“We found that people who experience ASMR showed significant reductions in their heart rates compared to non-ASMR participants,” Poerio explains, “These reductions are comparable to other stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness and music therapy.” Poerio says this finding is crucial because reduced heart rates prove people who enjoy ASMR are not sexually aroused.
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).
I didn’t know there was a name for this! I experience the shivers whilst just sitting and using my imagination to draw white light into the top of my head and the sensation just shoots down my spine like bubbling tickles. Kinda cool to do it on command, but even more fun when it happens randomly through certain music, power tools, meditations, and someone else touching certain fabrics ~ for e few examples. Mostly only occurs when I am already relaxed though.
Does it always start in your ears? When I’m sick, sometimes my ASMR starts automatically but I can always control it and stop it later if my muscles are aching badly (like a flu). I shudder sometimes too without even triggering my ASMR. I think the shudder is a warning or something, not sure. It actually makes thunder sounds in your ears? I’m curious now.. I can never get it to make sounds, but I’ve noticed something when I touch dogs or cats sometimes when I do it.. very unique but strange/good reaction from pets.
I am 69 female and have gotten a tingling in scalp in certain situations since I was a child. Just love it although it doesn't happen as often as when I was younger. Unfortunately, none of the videos did it for me and I don't ever remember seeing any youtube, etc that did it. Has to be real life. Someone comes to vacuum my office once a week. I get the tinglin feeling every time she's there. Of course, someone combing or styling my hair does it (more likely to happen if it's random and informal vs a haircut at the salon). Or someone giving me instructions and showing me how to do something (a simple, physical task) will trigger it. I try to hold onto it but it is so often too fleeting a sensation.
Listening to a binaural recording through headphones simulates the binaural hearing by which people listen to live sounds. For the listener, this experience is characterised by two perceptions. Firstly, the listener perceives being in close proximity to the performers and location of the sound source. Secondly, the listener perceives what is often reported as a three-dimensional sound. This means the listener can perceive both the position and distance of the source of sound relative to them.
Some of the bigger names in the field, such as GentleWhispering, TheOneLillium, ASMRrequests and EphemeralRift go to almost comical lengths to create the right atmosphere in each video. Because expertise and demonstration of knowledge in a field can be triggers in and of themselves, you'll often see ASMR videos for which these guys have put in a lot of prior study and preparation.
For many years I had no clue what asmr even was. I just knew I could think and hear things and it happens. I was eating lunch yesterday, I had a sarano pepper. I usually have a pepper of some type with at least one meal a day. This pepper was multi colored, very different from my norm. I have never, had a response from eating any food. Within a second or so of biting into this pepper, my head was going insane. Far more intense than any response before. So intense I stopped eating and waited several minutes for it to calm. Wanted to test it again more bites equaled more response. I kept the pepper, it had a very diffrent flavor from any I had before. I want the seeds!!!! Lol. Anyone had this happen to them? I’m shocked and have never heard of actual food triggers. These responses we’re intense and a quite a bit longer. I actually stopped eating the pepper, as after the 4th round my head felt tired and that I would get a head ache.
Stronger than audio for stimulating ASMR, though, is touch, Richard said, which is why he envisions touch-mediated virtual ASMR. Picture an ASMR video. But before you watch it, you put on a special shirt and hat. As the video plays, the person on the screen simulates touching you. And you experience it because that shirt and hat are rigged to transmit the touch.
Finally I have a name to call this feeling I had since a child. The first time I can remember getting this sensation was in my teen years, it was like sparks where going off in the back of my brain that moved from the top back of the brain and traveled downwards. Such an incredible feeling better then Europa if you ask me. The only time this happens to me though is when I’m listening to music. It could be a verse or statement that opened my mind to realizing something or the beat that sets off my tigger. Mine asmr only lasts for a few seconds but it’s worth it. Anyone else has tiggers such as mine?
An article titled "An examination of the default mode network in individuals with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)" by Stephen D. Smith, Beverley Katherine Fredborg, and Jennifer Kornelsen, looked at the default mode network (DMN) in individuals with ASMR. The study, which used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), concluded that there were significant differences in the DMN of individuals who have ASMR as compared to a control group without ASMR.