by Lakshmi Sadhu
Attention: Please try to keep an open mind while reading this article. Also, it is imperative that you listen to any video mentioned below with earphones. Don’t forget to turn up the volume! 🙂
“The Weird Part of YouTube” is a mysterious jungle that one only stumbles upon after falling down the rabbit hole of “related videos”. Such a series of unfortunately clicks have often only led me to videos that either had me wanting to gouge my eyes out or left me in disbelief at just how insanely bizarre some people are capable of being. Ironically enough, it was through these very exploits down the rabbit hole of the “suggestions” sidebar, that I chanced upon ASMR recently.
ASMR, or ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’, is a physiological euphoric response, often described as a shower of electrical tingles, or goosebumps, that begins on your scalp before spreading down your spine like liquid, triggered by carefully designed acoustic stimuli. While there is a lack of proper scientific research in this field, the existence of ASMR, or at least the relaxation that ASMR videos precipitate, cannot be denied.
The spectrum of stimuli that trigger ASMR (or an ASMR response) are INCREDIBLY individualised, as varied and unique as people are. Non-vocal ambient triggers capture sounds from our daily life that we may not otherwise always notice, and technologically isolate it to bring it to our attention, like the clinking of ice cubes in a glass, crinkling of paper, leaves crunching below our feet, or the sounds of pages turning. Vocal ambient triggers on the other hand can involve gentle unintelligible whispers, sometimes heavily accented or positively affirmative, interspersed with fingers tapping against objects that produce calming sounds.
Another famous ASMR trigger is personal attention. Certain ASMR artists, or ASMRtists, create videos where they role-play characters that give viewers personal attention – think getting a scalp massage at a spa, or a checkup at the doctor’s office.
These (sometimes hour-long) videos might appear to be blatantly boring at first glance, as might any video of a person just turning the pages of an old book for 30 minutes. Yet, these videos have millions of people spellbound. Hence, the lack of substantive scientific research (only one study has been published so far on ASMR) shouldn’t be used against the peculiar phenomenon.
The general skepticism that ASMR is bombarded by is understandable. After all, a quick Google search for ASMR videos give rise to rather strange results. Ergo, someone with no knowledge or experience of ASMR is bound to label these videos as straight up “weird”. The cynicism against ASMR is usually propagated by the strand of ASMR triggers that revolve around personal attention. As you might expect, the intimacy that personal attention videos precipitate is often misinterpreted as sensual or sexual in nature, something ASMRtists will staunchly deny immediately. This intimacy is the kind we feel feel when we hug our mother or hold hands with our best friend; it’s meant to be comforting, therapeutic, and promote a sense of well-being.
ASMR boasts a wide array of benefits: it is said to combat stress, depression, insomnia, and even PTSD. It’s important to note here however, that you don’t have to experience ASMR to find ASMR videos relaxing. The essence of ASMR’s effectiveness lies in its capacity to ground you in the present moment. Despite all our rationality and intelligence, human beings are just animals at the end of the day, creatures that thrive on sensory stimulation. ASMR brings us back into our bodies and out of our noisy, stressed-out minds that won’t stop fussing over our To-Do lists.
While I did spend an entire post ranting about the negatives of technology, I do have to admit that it is pretty damn cool how ASMR technology is capable of inducing feelings of comfort, warmth and safety – emotions usually associated with actual physical human companionship – through mere earphones.
I hope you explore ASMR further. I’m sure you’ll find something to suit your unique preferences amongst the thousands of videos on YouTube – let me know how your ASMR adventure goes in the comments below! 🙂