ASMR is something very dear to me. It is an intimate experience that can hardly be explained to those who do not experience it. Do you experience ASMR? Maybe you do but don’t even know it has a name. Most people who discover ASMR videos on YouTube comment something like: “Wow – I have always experienced this sensation and everyone thought I was crazy – now I see it has a name!” It is like a coming home. A coming together of people who ‘get it’. To me, it is a beautiful mystery that I am deeply fascinated by. What causes it? What determines who gets it and who doesn’t? What is its actual purpose? Is it perhaps a mystery better left unsolved? Would I lose it once I understood it? And finally… is it truly as awesome as it seems or does it in actual fact hinder my growth as yet another distraction?
So what is it?
It started very early for me in life, I suspect since I was born. My earliest and clearest memory of it, however, is when I was a 6-year-old girl. It was my first year of ‘big school’. Back then, to store our stationary on our desks, we cut up 2 litre coke bottles and used the bottom half. This was just the way we were instructed by our school. So we all had these plastic containers filled with pencils, crayons, erasers, etc. There was a certain kid, Thomas. I remember him to be a quiet, almost sad creature. For some reason whenever Thomas rummaged in his pencil container, I would experience an amazing feeling that made me drop whatever I was doing in order to focus solely on the sounds he was making as he rummaged around for a certain colour pencil or other utensil. I don’t know how to explain the sensation exactly, except to say that it is an intensely relaxing tingling sensation in the chest, similar to the feeling I get when somebody tickles my back or plays with my hair. I remember trying to explain it to my cousin who was my best childhood friend, telling her that I like to watch people ‘fiddle’. That is I loved to watch people do various things that created certain sounds because it sent me into a near-coma of relaxation. I remember assuming that this happened to everyone. That certain sounds were just amazing and evoked wonderful feelings inside of all of us. Eventually I discovered that nobody else I knew experienced it and that it was unique to me. And so, until this day, various (and many) sounds cause me to experience this intensely relaxing sensation that, if I am slightly tired at the time, will literally cause my eyes to droop. It is truly a wonderful feeling. Like I said, it is similar to getting your hair stroked and who doesn’t love that right?
The years went on. I kept mostly quiet about it. Never really questioned it. Until one day I somehow came across a blog on the internet explaining it. I couldn’t believe it! There are others out there who experience this? This is actually a thing?? I think this was the one:
Somehow I then still forgot about it and went on with my life. A couple of years later, when my communal house got uncapped internet and I discovered the black hole that is YouTube, I found myself wondering one night if I would find a video of somebody typing. (The sound of typing is a powerful one). This is how I discovered the massive ASMR YouTube community and was reminded again of the article I found a couple of years back. ASMR videos became my new addiction. I learned that my sensation experience is indeed a ‘thing” and that there is various terminology for it:
ASMR – It stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It was first dubbed by Jennifer Allen in 2010. She has since contributed massively to ASMR awareness.
Tingles – the best way to describe the sensation. A lot of people say they get the tingles at the back of their head. I get it in my chest.
ASMRtist – one who creates ASMR content for the purpose of those who experience the tingles. This is mostly on YouTube. A lot of ASMR experiencers use it to help them fall asleep due to the feeling of relaxation it gives them.
Inadvertent ASMR/deliberate ASMR – a lot of us agree that we don’t really get the tingles when the sounds are too deliberate. For some reason it is a lot more powerful when the person making the sounds has no idea of the effect they are having on you. This is important for ASMRtists to understand. There are many many videos that just don’t trigger me for this reason. I myself have created a youtube ASMR channel. It is still very small and amateur, (about 800 subscribers) yet I have some very popular videos that people rave about. These are the ones wherein I am actually involved in a task, using paper (which is one of the most popular sounds), instead of deliberately tapping on various objects. (The channel name is free2tingle in case you are interested.)
Roleplay – these are videos wherein the ASMRtists act out a certain scene, obviously involving a variety of sounds. Popular ones are shop roleplays, shop assistant roleplays, office-related roleplays (typing and paper sounds), also personal attention roleplays like pharmacy, dermatologist, makeup application, etc. There are too many to mention. Some of these are REALLY good and have become personal favourites; others are too deliberate and fake in my opinion. The ASMRtists whisper in a lot of the videos because whispering can also be a trigger. Sometimes I see comments underneath these videos by people who obviously have no idea what ASMR is who are completely baffled by the weirdness. I find this hilarious because I can see why it’d appear very odd to them.
Triggers – obviously the various sounds that cause the sensation. There are many. Here are some: paper sounds is a big one (people shuffling or sorting papers, paging through books, magazines, newspapers etc.) Also plastic sheets you would put in a file or binder. A video in which I am sorting through a flip file is one of my most popular ones. It has over 60 000 views which is a lot for such a small channel.
Cellophane, plastic, or foil packaging. Those containing most types of food or other things. Anyone eating a pack of chips or sweets nearby me will trigger me.
Rummaging sounds. Make-up rummaging is a very strong one for me. Also stationery rummaging or digging in a handbag or a drawer or something.
Buttons. Many electronic devices, like certain cameras, make great sounds. Also video game controllers. I am obsessed with the inadvertent sounds that vloggers’ cameras make on YouTube.
Tapping on various surfaces is a popular thing in videos, but it shouldn’t be too deliberate.
Whispering, if done right. A lot of the whispering on YouTube doesn’t work for me, again because it is too deliberate. Real authentic whispering (when you genuinely don’t want to be overheard by somebody) gets me good!
Jewellery sounds, boxes, nailpolish bottles, brown paper bags, those CD or DVD holders (the ones you can store many discs in and can page through), certain kid’s toys like toy cars and Lego (omg Lego is the best!), certain sets of keys (there is a specific type of car remote or gate remote you get that a lot of people have on their keyrings. It makes amazing sounds! I recall sitting at a coffee shop with a friend once. She was fiddling with her keys while we were chatting. I found it so hard to focus on what she was saying because I was in tingle heaven).
Eating sounds, certain people’s voices.. the list goes on. There are many variations in what some are triggered by and others not. Some people really don’t like eating sounds. Others (like me) don’t particularly like a certain way of tapping while some seem to enjoy it.
Are we healers?
Interestingly, certain types of people can create more pleasant sounds than others, with exactly the same tools. I haven’t been able to figure out why this is. Throughout my life, certain people stand out way more than others because of how much they triggered me, (like Thomas). All of us who watch ASMR on YouTube have our personal favourites. I am not particularly drawn to a lot of the very popular ones. I get very annoyed when it’s all too deliberate. (I cannot say that enough!) I have two longtime favourites: AnnabellASMR (used to be Whisperinghands4u) and ASMRlove. They are still relatively small compared to a lot of others (both having just over 10k subscribers) but I just love their styles. They are both simple and unpretentious and I can tell they truly experience ASMR (will get to that). I even enjoy their tapping. I particularly like Annabell’s older stuff. She’s got some gems there.
As much as I love and appreciate that I experience ASMR, there are times when it distracts me. I was sitting in on a very important lecture once wherein the teacher was holding a plastic sheet with some paper work inside. He was fiddling with it as he spoke and I found it very hard to concentrate on what he was saying. During these times I wonder if ASMR really benefits me or if it is something I should try resist. Yet thousands of people claim it helps them with anxiety, depression and insomnia. I get so many comments from people thanking me profusely for what I do and telling me how much it helps them and I know all other ASMRtists get the same feedback. For this reason I believe ASMR should be taken more seriously.
“I hope the community will take it as a personal challenge to explore the full depth of how ASMR can be used to improve their lives and to strengthen our interactions with one another in the near future. I think ASMR is just one tool in many that our community has to change the future of the world, and I hope they all see how much power they have to make a difference.
I know the ASMR community at large is very creative, very sensitive (often to the point of empathy, something a growing population desperately needs to survive), and fully equipped to derive new meaning from where we are today; I look forward to witnessing it!” (Jennifer Allen – the incredible woman who coined ASMR in 2010 and has contributed massively to ASMR awareness.)
I love how she mentions the empathy here. Sometimes on the forums people try to figure out a common denominator that experiencers have in order to make sense of it. I believe that a common denominator is being a healer, especially considering the already-clear healing effects of ASMR. Perhaps those people I mentioned who have triggered me so strongly in my life are actually healers, and perhaps I am one too, considering how strongly I feel it and how well my videos seem to help others. It seems to me to be like another sense (a 7th sense?) or perhaps a type of meditation because one is focused on a sound happening in the moment (although meditation isn’t really meant to make one want to fall asleep 🙂 There is some speculation that it is a type of synaesthesia, although as far as I know synaesthesia does not affect us quite as physically or comfortingly.
Not a fetish…
Unfortunately, (as with a lot of good things in life) masses of people have caught on to it and I feel it is being exploited. A lot of people are using it to become ‘YouTube famous’ by being purposefully seductive as they do the roleplays and whispering or by dressing provocatively. There is one particular channel which is truly horrifying. A couple posts videos wherein the guy spanks his drugged-up looking girlfriend’s half-naked bum and calls it ASMR. Moreover, I suspect a lot of these people don’t even experience ASMR and are just using it to jump on the YouTube bandwagon. ASMR-related people can be divided into a few subgroups (in my opinion): Those who experience ASMR; those who THINK they experience ASMR; those who pretend they experience ASMR; those who don’t experience ASMR but still like to watch the videos for relaxation or sleep- or study aid purposes; those who experience some other sensation and misinterpret it as ASMR and finally those who are merely using ASMR for financial or fame gain. It is no wonder that people who stumble across these videos are coining it as porn or a fetish. It is because of the multitudes of videos falsely or inadvertently depicting it as so. I find this frustrating because we have a tool here that can potentially really help a lot of people but people are inclined to take the experience less seriously once they even slightly suspect it is a sexual thing. I came across a video the other day wherein a relatively famous Youtuber (over 1 million subscribers), who is also an ex porn star and fetish queen stated with absolute certainty that ASMR is a fetish (!) Yes I will agree that whispering can be a fetish as can many other ASMR triggers also be fetishes.. In fact, I’ve had one guy ask me about twenty times to do a match lighting video (match boxes make great sounds for ASMR tingles) and I suspect that matches are HIS fetish, but the experience of ASMR itself is absolutely not a fetish. There is nothing sexual about feeling so relaxed you want to go to sleep. (A lot of people compare the feeling of comfort it gives them to their earliest memories of being held and soothed as a small child).
“I think the future greatly depends on the participation of the (ASMR) community. No one person can determine how ASMR will be applied globally because it is a deeply personal and individual experience. This experience does impact how we live and interact in a meaningful way, so it has a great amount of potential to teach us about openness, empathy, and happiness.
I hope we will celebrate our ability to enjoy life, share that joy with others, and find new ways to use ASMR in the best possible application—to make life for ourselves and others better and more meaningful in even the smallest, seemingly most insignificant moments. If every moment can be more, then we are more. At least, that’s how I see it.” (Jennifer Allen)
So there you have it. My story about my sweet ASMR. Do you experience it? Tell me in the comments below. I would love to hear about it!