ASMR: Worthy or Just Weird?

Titilope Akinnitire, Features Editor

ASMR: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. I notice that a lot of students these days immediately write off ASMR as completely weird (I’ve received a few odd looks for tapping my calculator or ruler in class to mock the phenomenon). It has become a common joke amongst my peers and I to reference ASMR, and I don’t feel as though everyone understands what ASMR is, and its purpose. I’m on the case of uncovering ASMR, and finding out what all the rage is about, along with all of the criticism.

Dozens of YouTubers have taken on the craft of ASMR, accumulating millions of views, and even earning a living off of it. If ASMR is so strange to the public, how do these videos manage to acquire so many views (in the millions)?

My first thought was to take the YouTube approach. YouTube essentially serves as the home of ASMR. ASMR has especially skyrocketed in popularity throughout 2018, as I’ve personally noticed a couple of videos trending that fell under the ASMR category. To start off, I quickly entered “ASMR” in YouTube’s search tab, and filtered out results based on view count. Right away, I noticed that the highest viewed ‘ASMR’ video came up at 483 million views, which is nothing to sneeze at. Upon further investigations on YouTube, it became clear that YouTubers who’d taken on the craft of ASMR (within the community, they’re referred to as ‘ASMRtists’) were accumulating generous amounts of views, some even making their living off of their videos.

ASMR seems to come off as a “new wave fad”. While some ASMRtists dedicate their channel solely to making ASMR videos, even celebrities were hopping on the ASMR train. Most notably, W Magazine’s YouTube channel has begun to feature celebrities (i.e, Cardi B, Paris Hilton, Gal Gadot…the list goes on) attempting ASMR on their channel. No surprise here, but these videos have accumulated dozens of views as well.

The biggest question that plagued my mind was why people tend to find ASMR so strange. ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is simply the ‘tingly’ sensation one feels on their scalp, or down their back upon hearing certain sounds, putting it plainly. Before ever hearing about what ASMR was in scientific terms, it became clear that I’d been exposed to it long before it amassed such great popularity on YouTube. I can recall feeling relaxed and at ease while watching quiet baking shows on Food Network. I can also think back to every time it has rained here in Hawthorne; I tend to sleep better when it rains, likely because of the sound rain makes hitting against various surfaces, including my bedroom window. ASMR has always been around me, so I never found the ASMR craze on YouTube to be so strange.

For a fair perception of ASMR, I decided to whip out my earbuds (I’ve heard it’s best to do so) and delve deep into the world of relaxation.

I tried to look for the ASMRtists who seemed to have larger consistent followings, as well as smaller ASMR content creators in an attempt to spot key differences. While watching various ASMR videos, I took note of all of the sounds (“tingles”, as the community has famously coined them) creators were using to “give viewers ASMR”. Commonly found actions included: playing with slime of different types and textures, tapping various objects, whispering into a microphone, etc. As for videos simply comprised of whispering, there seems to be a comforting aura surrounding them.The method for giving ASMR seems to be endless, and I seemed to have stumbled upon the “weird” side of ASMR, consisting of ‘Roleplays’. In these types of videos, content creators (often dressed to suit the roleplay) follow a storyline throughout the video, addressing the viewer as though they were present, implementing “sound triggers”, and whispering the entire time. It’s interesting how far some ASMRtists will go for the sake of a video.

I also noticed that bigger ASMRtists tend to use more expensive microphone equipment. In several videos, I noticed a microphone called the 3Dio, a binaural microphone. As weird as it might seem, the mic has two pairs of ears at its opposite ends. During their videos, ASMRtists alternate between whispering in either side of the mic. If the viewer is wearing earbuds or headphones, they are able to hear the ASMRtist’s voice through the earbud side correspondent to its ear counterpart on the microphone. Whether this comes off as creepy or not to you, it’s quite crazy–it feels as though the creator is actually whispering in your ear. I for one, was slightly creeped out. Overall, this furthers the intended effect of a personalized, relaxing experience ASMR intends to provide.

One thing that was nice to see from YouTube comments was that ASMRtists tend to ask their viewers what kind of ASMR videos they would like to see, and more often than not, they follow through with them. The wackiest video I came across was by the ASMRtist DiamondASMR, who performed surgery on a grape because her audience requested that she do so (don’t worry, the grape was in good hands). I also noticed that certain viewers tend to be loyal to specific content creators, claiming that they do not experience ASMR from any other creator. One ASMRtist (Karuna Satori ASMR) notably referred to her viewers as her “family”, thanking them for helping her financially in her time of need. Goes to show that even a community held together by the love of sound can be something to behold.

Overall, my exposure to ASMR was quite enlightening. I’ve gathered that many regard ASMR as weird because they simply haven’t tried heading into a video without prior judgement. It might seem like a difficult task to relax when it feels like a stranger is whispering in your ears, but I find that if you head into the videos with an open mind, the experience won’t be as terrible as you’d think. Whether or not it’s the relaxing sound of the ocean, I find that I personally do experience some sort of calming, relaxed sensation from hearing certain sounds. Who knows, if you give it a chance, you might just find yourself watching (listening) to ASMR videos on a constant basis. So pull out your slime, and start tapping away at your IDs; ASMR seems like a trend that’ll be sticking around for a long time.