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The Weird And Wonderful World Of ASMR

The Weird And Wonderful World Of ASMR

What is it?

Mark McGowan

Mark McGowan

There are many corners of the web you can crawl to in order to find something rather surprising.

ASMR is one of those things that, from the outset, seems rather unusual, but its ever-rising popularity has proven that it's a cult hit.

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is effectively a way of triggering that tingling sensation in your body that relaxes you. Kind of like when you split a fresh rubber in half and it slowly tears softly in your hand. Wow.

The term originally comes from a Facebook group created in 2010 after Jennifer Allen founded a group that consisted of people creating 'low-grade euphoria' for others. Other names like 'Attention Induced Head Orgasm', 'Attention Induced Euphoria', and 'Attention Induced Observant Euphoria' were also suggested, but Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is the one that stuck.

Since 2010 it's taken off, with people dedicating themselves to YouTube videos with the aim to relax the viewer. It's changed a lot over the years, but now you can pretty much find any kind of category that has been done by an ASMR 'artist'.

If you wish, you can have a girlfriend or boyfriend for the evening, as they softly talk into your ears. You can even have a nurse, barber, chiropractor or flight attendant.

They all have the same aim and same benefits in that they use positive feelings, relaxation, specific acoustics and sounds, and visual aids to trigger a tingling sensation.

So, what's it all about? Why is it so popular, and why are so many people doing it?

"I started watching ASMR after I Googled 'relaxing videos'," Isabel from Isabel ImaginationASMR told TheLADbible. "I found a massage video and I loved the whispered voice over the video, so I typed in whisper and so I found ASMR, that was about five years ago.

"[Before that] the community started out very small about six years ago, known then as the 'whisper community'."

Isabel continued: "I started posting my own ASMR videos in June 2016. I had been thinking about making my own YouTube channel [for a while] but was just too chicken.

"Last year I thought let's just try it and see what happens. I'm happy that I tried it.

"I love to be able to help people sleep the way other ASMRtists helped me. I think it's a wonderful gift you can give to someone, relaxation.

"My downfall is perfection; I want my videos to be perfect and that can sometimes be frustrating and take away from some of the joy of making ASMR content. That is after all the reason why I started my channel in the first place."

It's strange, because if someone describes what ASMR is to you, you'd be forgiven for labelling the person telling you a bit of an odd ball. But, if you actually watch it, no matter how weird you might think it is, you can find yourself slowly getting into it as it relaxes you.

In the beginning, when it was still in its simplest form, it was just about focusing on the noises and what looks satisfying. Things like a woman folding a towel, or Velcro being slowly ripped apart, the pages of a book being turned, nails tapping a surface, the popping of bubble wrap or a scalp being scratched.

Now, after the trend has taken on a life of its own, those things still remain, but with someone demonstrating them in a real-life scenario.

In recent times it has taken a bit of a turn, with people going as far as to suggest that Kylie Jenner's Snapchat is that big of an ASMR trigger, it could give you an orgasm.

In the case with this video, amassed from one of Kylie Jenner's Snapchat stories, the young businesswoman (?) can be seen preparing a meal in her kitchen, instructing us along the way in her baby-voiced murmuring.

In fairness, you can see the similarities, but it's surely incidental.

Laura Stone, an ASMRtist who started out watching the videos to cure anxiety and help her sleep, says that she makes the clips to help people in the same way she was helped.

"If I'm experiencing a panic attack, watching a video for five minutes I feel all my anxiety symptoms fading, and then within 10 minutes I'm calmer," she told BBC News. "I wanted to help people like they helped me. People say I help them sleep. Lonely people who don't have many friends or don't go out, they feel I'm their friend."

There's quite a bit of effort that goes into creating the videos, too.

The previously mentioned Isabel does all of her videos from a pretty lush studio, complete with green screen and costume wardrobe.

The video above proves just how far the 'movement' has come, which is pretty impressive.

All-in-all it's a curious phenomenon, in the sense that it's odd that it has become so big, and odd that it has such an effect on a person. In some instances it's been known to help sooth anxiety and stress, as Laura Stone alludes to above, as well as help with sleep and general well-being.

A research paper published in 2015 aimed to find what it is that triggers the sensation in people, and whether it was the same in every subject.

Emma Barratt, a graduate student at Swansea University, and Dr Nick Davis, used 500 people who watched ASMR videos and asked them where, when and why questions, as well as about the consistency of the experiences.

They found that the majority of participants watched the videos for relaxation, sleep or stress-related purposes, whereas five percent used it for sexual stimulation (what?). In terms of content - whispering, personal attention, crisp sounds and slow movements were most popular.

"There are a lot of people who latch onto some ASMR videos involving attractive women and dismiss what we found to be a very nuanced activity as exclusively sexual," Emma explains. "Our findings will hopefully dispel that idea."

In fairness, it's not really any shock that people see it as a way of having a bit of me time - people find it in anything these days.

One thing that takes it a step further is the comments on certain videos on YouTube. You can obviously log onto the site and see all the comments you like, but, specifically, on clips of people having their backs cracked (a strand of ASMR), the comments are odd. Really odd.

There's quite a big collection of chiropractor compilation videos on YouTube, which is essentially just 10 minutes of people getting their backs cracked.

The comment sections get really weird. No, really weird. Weirder than you're thinking. Okay, not that weird, but pretty weird.

It's basically a mixture of people who get some kink out of it, people who are oddly addicted to listening to other people's bones crack, and those who just seem to be lost.

Credit: YouTube


We're all guilty to liking a good crack. Most of us will sit at our desks cracking our knuckles for no good reason. Despite what some people say, it doesn't cause arthritis.

The act of cracking your joints is simply gas bubbles that have been displaced, releasing them for the joint. It's pretty much harmless and is called cavitation - chiropractors use these techniques to help improve movement.

According to Dr Rachel Vreeman, there's no actual hard science behind why it's so satisfying. It's basically down to releasing nervous energy, which links it all back to ASMR.

Featured Image Credit: Isabel ImaginationASMR/GwenGwiz

Topics: Interesting, Community, Weird, Health