The online cult of ASMR is huge, but don’t be disheartened if you haven’t heard of it, as it somehow has remained quite niche. No, this isn’t another acronym for a kink and no, there’s no terrible books written about it (*cough, 50 shades, cough*).
See, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response; this acronym is used to describe the tingling, almost static-like sensation some individuals experience when they listen or watch particular videos.
For more information on what it is exactly and how you might be able to experience it take a look at Nicola Pappadopoulos article.
The question that’s been on my mind since I stumbled upon these videos (don’t judge me, we’ve all been in the weird side of Youtube) is, are these videos just for the pleasure of creeps on the Internet who are hoping to feel some sort of intimacy in this digital age?
ASMR in Popular Culture
This phenomenon became part of popular culture as people began creating videos of themselves whispering sweet nothings or patting their nails on various objects. In a recent video posted by Fine Brothers Entertainment celebrities were asked to react to these particular ASMR videos.
1 of the 9 celebrities experienced some sort of sensation with the other 8 recoiling from the sounds.
With videos like this one amassing hundreds of thousands of views, ASMR seems to be on the same level and have the same trend like nature of viral videos of people “cutting things open with 1000 Degree Knife” and videos of people playing with slime. All of which also garner millions of views and in the case of the slime create glue shortages. The comments on the videos are of the same nature as ASMR ones “What is this feeling?”, “Why is this so relaxing?”, “I can’t stop watching.”
Videos of people cutting things with a hot knife or playing with slime aren’t classified as creepy so why are specific ASMR ones?
Let’s address the creepy thing.
I and, I’m sure like some of you can’t help but wonder if this is a sexual thing, The fact that this phenomenon has been described, as a ‘brain-gasm’ also doesn’t help.
Hungry lips the creator of “ASMR nurse (check-up) Role-Play” has amassed a following due to her videos on ASMR with some being, in my opinion NSFW. These ‘role-play’ videos are popular among the ASMR community; there are doctor’s offices, haircuts, massages, teachers, shop assistants all the way to Pokemon trainer and vampire roleplays.
As a result, many people among the ASMR community believe that these videos have corrupted something pure for the sake of viewership and are now in the category of ‘erotic ASMR‘ and are distinguishable from the ‘real’ ASMR videos. These ‘real’ videos being ones where the triggers are people simply whispering into a microphone or stroking their makeup brushes against the microphone. Some people argue though that no can tell someone else whether or not they are feeling ASMR as it is an extremely personal experience, so someone watching Hungry lips may just be watching purely for positive ASMR effects or to perhaps experience the trend of mass intimacy in an increasingly digitised world.
Mass intimacy refers to a mass of people feeling intimately close; in this case the mass of people is the audience watching the videos in the hopes of digital intimacy. Despite technology seemingly being used to connect us it has actually resulted in a feeling of collective isolation with people now turning to things such as ASMR to get that feeling of intimacy back. Nitin Ahuja a doctor and academic validates this stating
“…against a backdrop of cynicism about technology wholesale… the ASMR movement, demanding eye contact and prolonged attention, has sort of an undercurrent of optimism and care in the videos themselves that’s really nice. It’s hopeful.”
Due to this and the fact that attractive young women are the most popular content creators of ASMR along with the ‘erotic ASMR’ category, everything surrounding this phenomenon looks inherently NSFW to the uninitiated. The ASMR community insist that it’s not the case, but good luck trying to convince the rest of the world.
It doesn’t help that there is not a lot of neurological studies behind the scientifics of ASMR, the studies that have been done, however, all come to the conclusion that it is a real sensation and feeling. In a study conducted by Emma Barratt and Nick Davis they found that participants widely reported sensations similar to those found in the general reporting’s of ASMR, i.e tingling sensations.
63% of participants reported the tingling sensation to originate consistently in one part of their body, with 27% saying the origin varied.
Now here are the stats we really want,
Only 5% of the individuals reported using ASMR media for sexual stimulation, with 84% of participants disagreeing with this notion.
98% of individuals agree that they aren’t using ASMR for sexual purposes with 82% of participants using ASMR to help them sleep and 70% using ASMR to help deal with stress.
So where does that leave ASMR? Personally, I find all types of ASMR videos very uncomfortable to watch and am yet to get through one full video without cringing. I don’t experience the described sensation, I do feel a sensation though and that’s mostly the feeling of being creeped out (I just can’t stand the whispering!). However, I no longer believe these videos are purely for the pleasure of creeps on the Internet as there are too many people seeing the same positive effects. These people’s testaments don’t need scientific validation and if it helps one person feel a little less lonely in this digital age, isn’t that a good thing?
For all things ASMR related check out: ASMR University.