Why does this exist? Because some people experience ASMR, aka autonomous sensory meridian response, a condition that means certain sounds cause you to experience a pleasant, tingly feeling on your scalp, or around the top of your spine. Sounds weird, has in fact been around for a while – by late 2016, approximately 5.2 million ASMR videos had been uploaded to YouTube.
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.
ASMR, or “autonomous sensory meridian response,” is the term for the sensation people get when they watch stimulating videos such as this one. Many people describe the feeling as “tingles” (or “head orgasms“) that run through the back of the head, neck, and, spine. For some, the feeling is deeply relaxing and can even cause them to fall asleep. This is definitely not something I experienced.
I can trigger it at will, whenever I want with any kind of intensity as I please. I can concentrate the sensation in any place of my body, say tip of a single finger or my whole body. But, I want to know, is it wrong to abuse it? Or is it good? What can happen if I continue using it? By the way, I don’t need external stimuli to activate it, just the desire to do it, it’s like moving your hand.
It’s not like it even has to be that good, but if I get sudden understanding where I didn’t used to, it’s instant ASMR. For example, if I listen to a song for a long time in a foreign language, and later on read the lyrics while listening along, I start to understand what the singer is going for, and why they held certain notes longer etc, and that’s a trigger.
I experience this occasionally. The strongest occasion was approx 12 years ago. I was in the “High Country” NE Victoria, North of a town called Mansfield. I was out hunting Sambar Deer, 10 K’s from my off sider and in open bush land. About 1 Hr prior I came across droppings from wild dogs which were prevalent in the area and a real problem for farmers. I had this sensation all over my head and down my neck, it scared me. I had the feeling someone, something was watching me and was a bit shaken. I pulled myself together and continued my hunt. Never came across any deer or anything else that day.
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).
The writing in this article helped me understand ASMR, but the videos don't seem to be the best examples (it doesn't help that these examples aren't very long). The best examples of what they are talking about to me would have to be the crackling of a fire. Also, whispering in my ear gives me intense tingles, but part of that may be the vibrations off of my ear drum.
Have you ever felt a static-like or tingling sensation on the top of your head when someone brushes your hair or whispers to you? The feeling may travel down your arms and your spine, and it likely makes you feel very relaxed. Some call it a “sparkly” feeling, and it might happen when you hear someone crinkle a piece of paper or when someone traces a word on your back.
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.