Plucking your eyebrows. Getting your eyes checked. Listening to someone talk about what they picked up from Sephora. These all sound like normal, everyday interactions. But how would you feel about them if you weren’t experiencing them in real life? Instead, you’re watching a YouTube video designed to make you feel relaxed and experience ‘tingles’.
Welcome to the world of ASMR.
ASMR stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’. It’s the term for a sensation many find hard to describe – some feel it as chills down their spine, others classify it as almost like pins and needles. The sensation is supposedly brought on by a range of ‘triggers’, which can be anything from whispering or tapping to the sound of scissors cutting hair. Not everyone will experience ASMR, and those who do might not experience from all ‘triggers’. There’s little scientific research to back up the so-called phenomenon, but those in the ASMR community swear by its effects.
I first discovered ASMR at the tail end of Year 12. Attempting to wind down at the end of a stressful day of study, I’d pull up meditation videos on YouTube to help me fall asleep. YouTube Autoplay did its thing and soon I found myself in the depths of the ASMR branch of the site. Three years later, and I often struggle to go to sleep without having my hair cut or my makeup done by a stranger on the Internet. I don’t experience any of the ‘tingles’ other purport to feel; rather, I use the whispered words and calming sounds as a way to relax and get sleepy, like reading a book before bed.
Is this weird? Almost definitely.
Yet the most popular ASMR Youtubers (or ASMR-tists as they call themselves) have millions of views on their videos, with some quitting their jobs to focus on Youtube full time. In 2010, ASMR videos sat on the peripheral of YouTube, not weird enough to be taken down but not popular enough to appear in your recommended videos. Seven years later, W Magazine is getting Cara Delevingne involved and Vice is doing investigative videos into the ASMR scene in Spain. Researchers at universities around the world are starting to investigate what causes ‘tingles’, and whether the videos could have recognised therapeutic effects.
Whether you’re into it or not, it’s clear that the ASMR community is gaining traction around the world. And while I can’t attest to its scientific effects, I can’t complain about a bloody good sleep.