If you walked up to someone on the street and asked them what they thought of the collection of videos surging the YouTube platform, or even if they have heard of it, they would most likely be confused. In other words, the internet phenomenon is one of those things that can’t be pinned down as to what it is. From what I can understand, ASMR could be described as the internet’s very own marmite: some love it; some hate it. The creators within the community, since it has over the years grown into a community, are known as “ASMRtists,” almost as if they are artists of sound rather than the more conventional visual format that most average people think of when they think of “art,” and what is art and what isn’t is completely up to the person reading this article. For me, art is something that has a certain connotation or meaning which can be shared harmoniously by the creator and the consumer, and ASMR, whether you like it or not, does seem to fit within that description. Of course, within this there is also room for people to dislike the art which is created, and many people do seem to dislike ASMR. As with any sort of art, that is something someone creates, there needs to be some kind of understanding of the format itself.
And so, what is ASMR?
According to Wikipedia, ASMR is an acronym for autonomous sensory meridian response. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how intelligent that sounds, and the fact that I’ve included it in my article has bumped the count of my remaining brain cells up into a solid three brain cells, or perhaps even four if we’re being optimistic. It is a very long (and intelligent-sounding) term which is used to describe a tingling sensation felt by someone who is triggered by a certain soft sound, such as whispering or the sound of rain. This sensation, which is called “tingles” or “tingling” by those who create and watch the videos, is apparently felt within the person’s head and travels down through their spine, as demonstrated by this diagram which I also found on Wikipedia, the citing website which teachers and academics alike just love to hate.
However, some people, who some people argue are the majority of those who are aware of the ASMR community and their creations are a bunch of crazy people who have made up a bizarre pseudo-science which doesn’t do anything for anyone, other than ASMR’s alleged sexual connotations. I mean, watching an attractive woman, who I must admit make up the majority of the ASMRtists, whisper into a camera could be interpreted by some as being rather suggestive, although it is my own opinion that something that could be considered sexual is exactly that: something that could be considered sexual, depending on the individual’s own interpretation, and their desire. After all the eye only sees what it wants to see.
But there is reason to argue that this online phenomenon actually does help people. In 2015 two professors of psychology at Swansea University named Emma L. Barratt and Nick J. Davis respectively conducted the first experiments based upon this phenomenon, which was christened ASMR five years earlier. They gathered as many as 475 people who said they experienced these “tingles” characteristic of the phenomenon, which upon reading about the experiment is a considerable amount of people, which makes me believe that the self-titled “tingleheads” can’t just be a small group of basement-lurking neckbeards with a whispering fetish. The researchers found that the people they asked sought out ASMR videos on YouTube in order to experience the “tingles,” which explains the growing number of ASMR videos on that platform, since there is obviously an audience for it. But what is so good about these so-called tingles? There must be a reason for their craving this sensation so much. Well, according to this study the participants did identify a reason for their craving. The study showed that these people were seeking out the videos because they significantly lowered their stress levels and made them feel comforted. Some even use it in order to fall asleep and to aid ailments like chronic pain and mental illnesses.
However, one of the things I have been fascinated by which surrounds the seemingly innocent ASMR is the starkly contrasting manner in which the creators create their content. The first type of creators of these videos are the ones who appear to give ASMR as an entire community some kind of a bad reputation. I won’t name any names since but many of these “ASMRtists” appear to cash in on ASMR’s sexual connotations and make their own risqué videos in which they suck on bananas and comment on how the banana is shaped like a dick. Umm… okay? Whatever you say I guess?
I happened to have one of these videos pop up on my YouTube “recommended” page, and well… let’s just say that curiosity killed the cat. The cat died from cringing so hard that she turned inside out. That characteristic awkward feeling which comes from watching one of these videos is similar to when you accidently walk into a couple enjoying each other’s company at a house party… if you get my meaning.
But I digress. The second group of ASMR creators I have come across whilst on YouTube are those who deserve the name of ASMRtist, in that they are artists in some way. They have very expensive-looking microphones and green-screens which they use to create very professional-looking videos that rack up tens of thousands of views, which is so impressive to me. They seem to take their work so seriously that one of the most well-known creators within the community has what she calls a “tingle shed” in her garden which she appears to have built herself. There are even videos which detail the process by which the lady in question, whose channel name is WhispersRed ASMR, went about building the shed, piece by piece. Now that is dedication! There are many people like the lady in question who create high quality videos for those who need them, most with an incredible amount of subscriptions. Some even have a million subscribers and as a result have received a golden YouTube button. In my opinion this just shows how many people must watch these videos and use them for their own personal enjoyment, whatever that enjoyment may be, and that the creators of these videos are valued contributors to the YouTube platform as a whole.
In the comments section of many of these ASMR videos there are people who say the video made them fall asleep instantly, and there are also indices where some have said that the videos help to calm their autistic child, and in my opinion if these people are finding solace in these videos, they seem in my opinion to be totally harmless, if not a good thing. There are far worse things to be watching on YouTube than ASMR videos, that’s for sure, especially in the light of the controversies which have surrounded many of YouTube’s most popular creators (cough Logan Paul cough). Overall, ASMR appears to me to be arguably one of the most creative communities on YouTube. Although there are some who seem to pervert the medium for their own gratification, from what I gather the majority of creators within this community seem to genuinely want to create these videos, and as bizarre they seem at first, the videos do seem to be taking the internet by storm and they show no intent on ceasing to create them, so we’d better get used to seeing them on our explore pages and/or recommended sections because it appears as if they are here to stay.
If you were as fascinated by the woman who built a “tingle shed” in her garden as I am, here is her channel where you can watch one of her (amazing) videos:
The cover image of this article depicts GentleWhispering ASMR, whose channel can be found here:
© Sinner’s Paradise and its author, (2017-). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sinner’s Paradise and its author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.