ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response” and while all of those words sound really large and confusing, the actual experience is quite simple. ASMR refers to the pleasurable feeling one gets from certain noises or sensations. Have you ever gotten a tingle down your spine from the sound of a hair buzzer coming close to your ear? Felt relaxed while listening to the waves crash on the beach? That’s ASMR.
In fact, ASMR has become a bit of a cultural phenomenon. Entire YouTube channels are dedicated to the sensation and giving viewers the experience of “tingles” or complete relaxation. There are hundreds of Spotify playlists that just contain sounds of a fan blowing, paper crinkling, typing on a keyboard, and millions of other noise combinations that give people that response.
Some of the videos themselves are more whimsical as well, with users pretending to be a doctor, hairdresser, or any other occupation that would prompt being in close contact with another individual. These are known as “role play” videos, and before your mind starts going to a dirty place, the actual intention couldn’t be more pure.
The ASMR community online has grown to be one of support and comfort. Many individuals with anxiety, depression, and other mental health ailments claim that ASMR videos and sounds help them relax and seperate themselves from the struggles that they deal with on a day to day basis. This makes sense as well due to the fact that ASMR can be seen as a form of meditation depending on how one consumes it as well.
Typically, when one views an ASMR video, it’ll be right before bed to help them fall asleep, or at a time when the individual just wants to relax and unwind. ASMR Shortbread, also known as Shortie, is a top ASMR creator on Cameo and YouTube who recently discussed how she often receives requests from her viewers to make videos after they suffered bereavements, break ups, or any other struggle in their life.
“My channel focuses a lot on personal attention, being that caring friend. I would say the majority of requests are looking for just a chat really, somebody to talk to. ASMR is intimacy, but at a distance.”
With the coronavirus pandemic there’s been a huge surge in popularity among personalized videos. Wisio is a personalized video platform that claims their requests for ASMR videos increased by 2,100% since March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit America. This makes sense due to the fact that many people utilize ASMR to assist with stress and sleep aid; two things we’ve all likely struggled with in the past year.
According to a 2015 study taken among individuals who claim to regularly consume ASMR content, 82% claimed to use the videos to fall asleep, and 70% claimed it was to deal with stress. Another study revealed that ASMR decreased levels of sadness and stress, as well as feelings of interpersonal connection after watching a range of videos.
Dr. Craig Richard described ASMR as “just another item on the menu of relaxation techniques that humans use to feel better. Personalized videos are like getting to pick and choose the foods that you like the most at a buffet.” Richard expects future research to show that ASMR was one of the most beneficial techniques for relaxation used during the pandemic.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.