Over the past five years or so, an unusual yet strangely relaxing genre of videos has emerged on YouTube. These videos, in which YouTubers softly speak, whisper, and use everyday objects to create soothing sounds are known as ASMR videos. ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) aims to relax people by playing sooth- ing sounds, and whilst it is still a very niche section of the internet, it is beginning to rise in popularity. However, very little research has been done on the concept of ASMR, and everyone’s experience of thisphenomenon is different. So, how does ASMR work?
ASMR works by giving people “tingles.” You may have already experienced this in your everyday life, particularly when a person plays with your hair or applies makeup to your face for you. It tends to be a strange sensation that runs up your back from your spine to your head, but some people report just feeling sleepy and re- laxed. The ASMRtist (the term used for YouTubers who create channels solely devoted to the relaxation technique) can give view- ers these tingles through personal attention trig- gers (this usually involves touching the camera as if they were touching the viewer’s face or pretending to brush the viewer’s hair), water sounds, or even just whispered roleplays.
Some viewers find that they experience “tingles” with only a certain kind of ASMR video, while others find the whole concept of ASMR strange and unnerving. Sometimes, an ASMR video can even be relaxing for reasons other than sounds and whispers. For example, Scottish Murmurs ASMR has a video on her channel that is a roleplay based within a St Andrews hotel. This video of hers can make me feel really relaxed, simply because it is set in an environment that I know well. Many people first stumble across ASMR when they are looking for meditation-videos, as both have calming effects and can be used as relax- ation tools. In addition, ASMR can be a useful tool for managing feelings of anxiety or self-doubt. Many ASMRtists create videos specifically to give viewers some comfort if they are going through difficult periods in their personal lives. Some people even use ASMR to help them fall asleep at night, as comforting and soothing videos can very easily make a person drowsy. However, people tend to only experience this sensation if they focus intently on the video they are watching and are in an environment where it is safe for them to fall asleep. This makes ASMR a great form of help for many struggling with feelings of anxiety or insomnia, but ASMR should never be used as a replacement for professional help. If you are really struggling, then you should consult a profes- sional, but if ASMR can help you temporarily, then there is no evidence to suggest at the moment that ASMR can cause you any harm. ASMR can also be used to brighten up your mood, with some ASMRtists creating videos solely for comedic purposes. These videos tend to be less relaxing but can still be very soothing and give you a good laugh. For example, CrinkleLuvin created a series of ASMR videos on her chan- nel called ‘Suburban Moms’. These videos followed sev- eral characters, all Suburban Moms and their drama-filled lives, and proved to be very comedic. Yet, the videos were still relaxing and proved to be an ASMR hit.
While scientific study into ASMR is practically non-existent, there are some theories about what it could be and why it creates such a strong response in some people. It has been suggested that ASMR could be a kind of sei- zure in our brains. However, not everybody can experience ASMR, and this makes it dif- ficult to add weight to those theories.
In fact, some people very strongly dislike ASMR and have an intense negative re- sponse to ASMR videos. Those who very strongly dislike ASMR may feel this way due to misophonia. This is a condition where certain sounds evoke negative reac- tions in some people and is usually triggered by tapping, chewing, or even breathing, all of which tend to feature heavi- ly in ASMR videos. ASMR has also been criticised for being too sexual, as some people find the mouth sounds sexual and inappropriate. However, the ASMR community do not believe their videos are sexual. Nonetheless, finding the right ASMR video for you can make a huge difference to your mental state. Stu- dents, in particular, may find that ASMR is a great coping mechanism to help them deal with the academic pressure that accompanies student life. During exam season, ASMR can be a great tool to unwind with at the end of a long day of studying or as background noise to help keep you calm whilst you make your way through a long reading list.
Freshers, in particular, may really benefit from the ef- fects of ASMR.First year is always hectic. ASMR is great for helping with the stress of university work and easing the anxiety that accompanies moving to a new town and trying to create an entirely new life for yourself. While ASMR may not be for everyone, it does help many people man- age their stress and anxi- ety, which makes it a very useful tool for helping students cope with the pressure of university life. More people are begin- ning to discover ASMR, which is helping to break down stigmatisation of the relaxation tool and raise awareness of its many benefits - it may even help you!
Illustration: Vera Emma Rapp