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.
A: I’ve been watching ASMR for about eight years. I was a horrible sleeper and could never go to bed, so I was just always watching YouTube on my phone. I stumbled on one of the videos, and I literally never stopped watching. When I was a film major, I was always into YouTube; I loved the internet culture; I loved everything about ASMR. I was so familiar with the community and who was in it and the little nuances. I was like, “If I’m going to start a YouTube channel, I think I would do ASMR.” I didn’t think anyone would like what I had to offer, but I knew I wanted to take it seriously.
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?”.
ASMR's main draws, as Richard explained, are the feelings it can create. When a person hears whispering, crinkling, tapping, or other ASMR triggers, they experience tingling sensations throughout their body. But the physical sensations aren't the only reasons people watch ASMR content. A 2017 study found that 41% of respondents watch ASMR videos to help them fall asleep, while 59% watch to relax.
I say “dis-analogy” because when you think about it, ASMR is nothing like an orgasm, and in fact is closer to the exact opposite of an orgasm on the spectrum of things that feel good. Orgasms are short intense bursts that are characterized by tension, desire, need, etc. ASMR often involves letting go, relaxing and just being at peace. I think ASMR is a more anticipatory sensation, where often times the anticipation is actually better than the thing anticipated. But the anticipation of sex, without actual sex is for most people extremely frustrating.
Like those who posted before me, I have experienced ASMR for many years. My earliest memories are around the second grade. In my second grade class, we were required to read with partners; however, I was a more advanced reader and would allow my partner to read the entire time if he/she wanted. I would experience intense tingling around the crown of my head listening to him/her read, but I would also experience very intense tingling in the frontal lobe region watching him/her turn the book pages. Around the same time, I would intentionally watch Bob Ross on PBS (like others have mentioned) to take a nap due to the same tingling sensation and calm/relaxation he induced.
"Sounds that trigger ASMR are always low volume and are usually steady, rhythmic, and predictable," says Craig Richard, Ph.D., founder of the site ASMR University and author of Brain Tingles. "Our brains interpret sounds with these traits as non-threatening, which can induce relaxation—especially when incorporated with personal attention and caring behaviors."
“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.”
I relate to much of what has been said in this conversation thread. I remember as a child, young, maybe seven… my punishment for disobedience or back talking was to stand in the corner. The corner was made by the cold wall and the refrigerator. The refrigerator was old and would kick on often blowing warm air through the crack between it and the wall. I did not know why I got tingly but I loved it and remember asking if all my punishments could be to stand in the corner. It believed it was the difference of temperatures between the wall and the refrigerator motor that caused it. Now, as an adult, I still sit over heat vents with my cheek or arm rested against the wall. I wonder why sometimes it is so intense. I get the tingles that crawl all the way down to my toes and cause a mild jerk or convulsion that sets it off again. I have synesthesia and also wonder if that serves to increase the frequency or intensity of the feeling…
According to Setz, this citation generally alludes to the effectiveness of the human voice and soft or whispered vocal sounds specifically as a trigger of ASMR for many of those who experience it, as demonstrated by the responsive comments posted to YouTube videos that depict someone speaking softly or whispering, typically directly to camera.
There is no solid data about ASMR, no published research studies — not yet. The term “ASMR” is nonclinical, coined in 2010 by a woman named Jennifer Allen who started an ASMR Facebook group and later became part of a team — along with Richard — that collected and analyzed anecdotal information about the sensation. Richard also notes the work of Bryson Lochte, a Dartmouth College undergrad who has used neuroimaging technology to study ASMR for his senior thesis but has not published his results.
1. Do you have different reactions depending on who is the source of the sound? For example, I have very distinctive reactions, i.e. if someone from my relatives does the mouth sounds, I get irritated and at times even angry. I even leave the kitchen if I hear my relatives making the sounds while eating. Purely biological, can’t explain it. The sounds are unpleasant for me. But if a random person or someone I barely know from an opposite sex does the mouth sounds, I can get ASMR or pleasurable feelings.
And then there’s the cooking. You can watch as someone on the ASMR cooking channel Sound Croquette makes mozzarella sticks, Nutella crepes, fried chicken and more. In some cooking videos, the artist whispers all the while. In others there is no talking, only the sights and rhythmic sounds of cooking — frying, cracking an egg, boiling water, chopping, mixing and stirring.
Any cursory Googling will bring up videos from the doyenne of ASMR, an Eastern European woman named Maria who goes by the handle GentleWhispering and who constantly sounds like she's on the verge of crying as she attempts to trigger the chills by blowing into a high-tech microphone or folding towels. Her most popular videos have reached over six million views.
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.
She was soon feeling so much better that she decided to film herself eating some spaghetti, and ASMRTheChew was born. She now has more than 400,000 YouTube subscribers, and her ASMR whispering and eating videos, aimed to help viewers with issues ranging from anxiety to insomnia, have been watched over 85 million times on that platform alone. (She has also gone viral on Instagram).
Just as the reasons vary, so do the triggers. A 2015 study examined ASMR triggers and found that whispering was the most common, with 75% of participants saying it caused body tingles. 64% of participants cited "crisp sounds," like the crackling of foil or tapping of fingernails, as triggers, and 53% said "slow movements," like pouring water, were triggers. Although different people prefer or only react to certain triggers, they typically seek them for the same reason: the physical and emotional side effects.
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 first got the tingles (as I called them) at seven years of age, I would be sitting with a friend, or alone, listening to the radio, drawing, talking, suddenly everything gets hushed, quite, talk is low, personal, close. To me, it feels like Empathy Overload! Deep feelings of shared tragedy, celebration or experience, in song, speech or shared moments of complete silence. But it’s empathy operating at a very high level, that’s what I feel. A deep understanding of the law and order of… everything,
While many colloquial and formal terms used and proposed between 2007 and 2010 included reference to orgasm, there was during that time a significant majority objection to its use among those active in online discussions, many of whom have continued to persist in differentiating the euphoric and relaxing nature of ASMR from sexual arousal. However, by 2015, a division had occurred within the ASMR community over the subject of sexual arousal, with some creating videos categorized as ASMRotica (ASMR erotica), which are deliberately designed to be sexually stimulating.