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Assessing ASMR: Weirdly relaxing or just plain weird?

Courtesy of Gentle Whispering ASMR

Courtesy of Gentle Whispering ASMR

Courtesy of Gentle Whispering ASMR


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  Everyone has different methods of relaxing after a long day’s worth of work. Some may choose to unwind by binge-watching their favorite shows on Netflix.  Others may instead opt to hang out and socialize with their friends at a cozy café.

  Millions of viewers on YouTube, however, have turned to videos of people softly whispering and tapping on everyday objects.

  These “ASMR videos” revolve around evoking the phenomenon of “ASMR,” which stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.”  Those who experience ASMR often describe it as a pleasant tingling sensation that originates at the base of the skull and eventually spreads to the rest of the body. “ASMRtists” seek to evoke the euphoric sensation of ASMR in their videos through the creation of unique yet simple sounds, like the slow tapping of a wooden brush, the delicate crinkling of a tea bag or the crisp chopping of vegetables. Some ASMR videos even recreate relaxing situations found in everyday life: Videos simulating doctor’s visits, library checkouts and bank withdrawals are common.

  While the content of such videos may seem mundane, it is actually for this very reason that ASMR videos are hugely popular. ASMR videos embody a “stop and smell the roses” mentality, encouraging people to slow down and appreciate the simple joys of life: the sound of hands smoothing over bed sheets, a pencil tracing over paper, etc. Similar to watching Bob Ross (who is considered an accidental ASMR pioneer) paint happy little trees, watching an ASMRtist methodically fold origami allows viewers to temporarily disconnect from the stressful responsibilities of everyday life.

  In addition, ASMR videos frequently have a link to the promotion of mental wellness and a healthy lifestyle, with videos involving meditations and practices related to spirituality being numerous on YouTube. Thousands of viewers have come to rely upon the comforting, carefree vibe of ASMR videos to calm down their overstimulated brains, soothe their stressed nerves and even help combat their insomnia. Thus, even individuals who don’t necessarily experience the actual of sensation of ASMR itself find themselves constantly revisiting the mesmerizing videos.

  The creation of high-quality ASMR videos, though seemingly straightforward, actually requires a relatively large amount of investment. Many professional ASMRtists tend to spend hundreds of dollars purchasing the latest cameras and microphones. One of the most popular types of microphones used by professional ASMRtists is known as a binaural microphone. By utilizing two microphones, one for each ear of the viewer, binaural microphones recreate the effect of “3D sound,” which allows viewers to feel like the ASMRtist is actually present there with them.

  Furthermore, ASMR videos don’t just cost a lot of money to make, but they also cost a lot of time. Typical ASMR videos range from 30 minutes to an hour, and top-notch ASMRtists often painstakingly edit every second of their videos in order to perfectly render and fine-tune the sound. ASMR videos involving role plays even utilize scripts, props and outfits that must be planned out and created beforehand.

  Still, despite the growing popularity of ASMR, ASMRtists and their videos still face a large amount of stigma from society for various reasons.

  First, the intimate nature of many genuine ASMR videos is often misinterpreted as being sexual. Furthermore, some less professional ASMR videos do try to intentionally play off of this unfortunate connotation. However, highly successful ASMRtists, like Maria of “Gentle Whispering ASMR,” firmly assert that the true value of ASMR lies within its ability to relax and comfort those in need. Maria is one of the most popular ASMRtists on YouTube, with over 1 million subscribers and approximately 400 million total views.

  Second, little scientific research has been conducted towards verifying ASMR as a true scientific phenomenon. Much doubt exists over whether or not the effect is simply placebo, especially since descriptions of the sensation don’t usually extend beyond “tingling.”  Still, the relatively consistent widespread accounts of ASMR experiences proves that, at the very least, there is something unique about these kinds of videos and the sounds associated with them.

  With exams just around the corner, we all need a reliable method of relaxing. Who knows?  A few taps, some crinkles and a soft whisper may very well become your best friend during those precious study breaks.

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Assessing ASMR: Weirdly relaxing or just plain weird?