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ASMR: Have You Heard of It?

Jennifer Martin, Social Media Intern

If you are reading this blog because the title got your attention - Good! Maybe it is because you have never heard of ASMR before and are curious as to why we are talking about it this week. Maybe you are very familiar with ASMR and want to know even more about this fascinating phenomenon. I wanted to make this blog a little more personal, and thought I would take the opportunity to discuss a very unique method of relaxation that I personally have been using for over 5 years that may or may not be one of the most popular yet least talked about out there.

Let’s talk about ASMR. 

Aside from this being one of my favorite relaxation methods, the real reason that made me think to write about this was after I suggested it to a colleague of mine at work to possibly help with her anxiety and specifically her issues with falling asleep at night. What surprised me the most was that not only did she already know about ASMR, but she thought she was the only one who did! Her reaction to me knowing what ASMR was and then being surprised by me speaking about it so openly and casually was actually what made me decide to share this with more people because I think people are still unsure of whether or not this is a socially acceptable thing to discuss. I’m here to tell you, it is! As a frequent listener/viewer of ASMR content on the internet, primarily YouTube, I do realize that it can be perceived as a little…. Weird- for lack of a better term- for people who are first introduced to it. I completely get it, I truly do! The internet is a very * Interesting * place at times and to be honest, I can’t even really remember how I stumbled upon this corner of it initially. 

Describing what ASMR is to a person who has never heard of it can be tough because you have to experience it to really understand, however, I have been able to break it down pretty well for those who I have spoken to about this, and it really is something that you will either love or hate. Those who love it, like me, experience a tremendous sense of relaxation and occasionally, what is widely known among the ASMR community as “tingles”. The interesting thing about ASMR is that it is a phenomenon that not everyone experiences. This may explain why to some people, it is completely off putting, and to others, it is very satisfying. While not many people are talking about it, there are certainly a lot of people who are engaging in the creating or viewing of this type of content and don’t take my word for it, A search on Google will yield over 250 MILLION results and on YouTube alone, there are more than 13 million of these videos which get hundreds of thousands if not millions of views! “ASMR” is actually one of the most searched for term on YouTube. If you are wondering how, you have not heard of this before, it may be due to it still being relatively new as far as the internet is concerned. ASMR videos started to make their way onto YouTube about 10 years ago, starting from a small community of people who shared the same common interest in this phenomenon, and it slowly began gaining popularity (as things on the internet have a tendency to do) eventually building up to a more mainstream status today. 

ASMR is most commonly experienced as a tingling or warm sensation at the top of the head, running down the back of your neck, back, and sometimes in the arms and legs that is triggered by audible or visual stimuli. The feeling is best described as a sensation similar to when you use one of those wire head scratchers, have someone trace over your skin with their fingertips, or that feeling you get from the sound of someone snipping your hair near your ears during a haircut (a very common trigger!). Those who enjoy ASMR may not feel this tingling sensation at all but still enjoy ASMR for a variety of reasons including the sense of relaxation and calmness they feel from the visual or audible content. It can help people feel connected and less lonely while watching videos and give them comfort while falling asleep. ASMR is related to comfort, security, and feelings of relaxation in general that sometimes have associations with memories that date back to childhood. There are so many triggers that can cause a response and it can take some time to discover which, if any, work for you.

Psychologists and neuroscientists are actually studying this phenomenon to better understand why and how people are experiencing ASMR. They are finding that this is not only eliciting a psychological response, but also a physiological response. Dr. Guilia Poerio and Dr. Tom Hostler are research psychologists at the University of Sheffield’s department of psychology in the United Kingdom who have done research on ASMR and have published their findings. There were 2 separate research studies, the first being an online survey conducted with over 1000 participants which asked them to watch different videos. Some videos were ASMR videos and others were not. Participants were asked to describe how they felt after watching them. Dr. Poerio and Dr. Hostler found that people who were watching the ASMR videos reported greater feelings of calm and relaxation compared to those who watched the non-ASMR videos. The second study they conducted was to look at the physiological basis of the ASMR response which included 112 participants. Of those 112 participants, half were those who reported being able to experience ASMR, and the other half did not. This study was conducted in the lab where physiological equipment was hooked up to the participants to measure things such as heart rate, and it was shown that those who watched ASMR videos showed a reduction in heart rate compared to those watching Non-ASMR videos. More research is being done on this subject as it grows in popularity and creates curiosity among scientists and researchers to learn more about this phenomenon and how it can help in specific disorders such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. 

There is a lot that goes into creating these ASMR videos, from the camera, background set up, props, and of course, the many different (and expensive) types of microphones used in specific ways to create the most satisfying sound quality. I give a lot of credit to the ASMRtists (that is the proper way to refer to these content creators because they have to be skilled in video production, knowledgeable about equipment they use, and most importantly – Creative! As someone who has viewed and tested many ASMR videos, I can’t begin to tell you how many unique (and somewhat strange) ideas they come up with that you would never think of which somehow turn out to be oddly satisfying. I don’t think it is fair to call ASMR “weird” or “strange” because for many people, this is something that has helped them tremendously overcome a lot of the anxiety, depression, and sleep issues that had previously been negatively affecting their quality of life.  I believe that all ways of coping, relaxing, and feeling comforted are very personal and specific to the individual, so if you find that ASMR isn’t for you, that’s alright- to each their own. Because of how many different types of ASMR content there is on the internet, it may be worth it to explore and maybe spend some time going down the rabbit hole a bit to find out if this is something that will benefit you. Because ASMR preferences may vary drastically from one person to the next, one person’s recommendations may not be your cup of ASMR tea, however they may give you an idea of what ASMR is, the types of video categories that may interest you, and give you somewhat of a jumping off point to search around to see what is out there. This is what I did in the beginning, and I found it to be a really interesting journey to say the least. What I have learned is that certain ASMR content creators have their own unique style when it comes to the videos they put out and what triggers they tend to include. 

For more information about ASMR, the research behind it, and resources to help you find out if you are able to experience the phenomenon of ASMR, please feel free to check out the following links:

VIDEO: ASMRtist – Gentle Whispering ASMR - We Shell Relax ASMR Soft Spoken/Tapping/WavesMeditation  *** This is one of the original ASMR content creators who has been doing so forover 10 years and one of my all-time favorite ASMR videos! ***

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