What on Earth is ASMR?

By Hannah Wisterman
Blog Content Contributor

You would think that you would know “the weird side” of the internet when you found it. So imagine my surprise when I scrolled down to the comments of a YouTube video and found someone declaring, “Guess I found the weird part of YouTube again,” on a clip that fit right into my daily life. The video? An ASMR video featuring camera touching and brushing. And believe me, as ASMR goes, that’s very tame. Why would anyone think it’s weird?

Well, ASMR videos, which are meant to soothe, relax, and trigger an audio sensory meridian response, don’t fit the norm of popular media. Some people might be caught off guard or even unnerved by “ASMRtists” tapping the lens and body of the camera, or using makeup brushes not for makeup but for making soft sounds, all the while exclusively whispering or not speaking at all. (See a video from Gibi ASMR below for a good example of this.) Once you get deeper into the ASMR corner of YouTube, you may think things get even stranger: roleplay videos where ASMRtists pretend to be therapists, doctors, witches, or even monsters, and videos where microphones are covered in various substances and then washed off. Objectively, it’s a little weird. But contrary to many first impressions, the intention of 99 percent of these videos is pure.

ASMR, or audio sensory meridian response, refers to the feeling of tingles brought on by certain sounds and in some cases, sights. If you’ve ever used a head massager or had someone trace shapes on your back with their nails, you might be familiar with the sensation. Many media outlets that have covered ASMR in the past refer to this as a “pleasurable” feeling, which is where a lot of perception about the community gets skewed. ASMR is not inherently sexual. When we say it feels good, what we mean is that it feels relaxing. The videos ASMRtists create serve many purposes, but none of them are weird or perverse. People use them to ease anxiety, to help them sleep, to focus, or even just for some non-stressful entertainment. (Goodnight Moon’s fantasy role-play series is charming and captivating, for instance, without once being tense or upsetting.) For this reason, many ASMR videos are over half an hour long, or even longer than an hour, so that viewers (or listeners) can let them run as they work or fall asleep without worrying about having to switch every five minutes.

Not all kinds of ASMR videos are for everyone. Mouth sounds are a contentious “trigger” that many despise—but many love. Likewise, a role-play video about being kidnapped by a serial killer may not be your cup of sleepy-time tea. If it’s not your taste, that’s all fine and well, but it’s best to remember that disliking something doesn’t make it weird or disgusting or perverse. Just click away to the next video. Like so many things, the best approach to ASMR, should you choose to explore it as a way to relax or help you sleep, is to find what works for you. Personally, I love inaudible whispers and microphone touching; other people I know love “finger flutters” and soft tapping. I got hooked from watching intricate doodles with pen-on-paper sounds, and I’ve recently been looking into microphone squishing (it sounds like a hug!). I promise, whatever relaxes you, there is most likely an ASMR video for it.

If you’re curious and want to see if ASMR videos can benefit you, Heather Feather, Gibi and Fairy Char are excellent entry points to the community.

Featured image via Pixabay.

hannahwist

ktsw web content editor & music journalist. finding magic every day.

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