Diving into the weird and wonderful world of ASMR
One of the big trends of the online world in the last few years has been the rise of ASMR. This slightly mysterious term stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. So far we’re none the wiser. In layperson’s terms, that means getting pleasant tingling feelings in your head, neck and back in response to (usually) auditory stimulation. You listen to something nice, and it’ll feel physically nice too. It is essentially a better version of pins and needles, similar to the goosebumps you’ll get when listening to a great piece of music. Some people report these sensations in response to visual stimuli too, but the overwhelming majority respond to a range of sounds. A whole world of videos and performers, dubbed ‘ASMRtists’, has grown up in response to the increasing popularity of the phenomenon. While some people experience intense tingly sensations, for others, myself included, ASMR videos hold a place somewhere between white noise and that other growing genre, ‘weirdly satisfying thing’ videos.
Whether or not you’re subject to the tingles, ASMR videos offer a novel way to unwind and relax at the end of the day. It’s kind of meditative, with squidgy foam or tapping on pieces of wood standing in for the bells and humming more usually associated with meditation. The sounds offer a point of focus and concentration, allowing you to drift away from racing thoughts. It shouldn’t be seen as a solution to mental ill-health or serious sleep disorders, but it can be a fun and relaxing way to get yourself ready for a long night’s sleep.
It has been estimated that there are over 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube, and as its popularity increases and celebrities jump on the bandwagon this number will only get bigger. There are a huge range to choose from, with some very elaborate set-ups. Some people prefer (perhaps slightly questionably) a focus on the performer, with roleplay or speaking acts, but there is plenty out there if, like me, you prefer to keep things simple. Here are three of my top recommendations from the weird and wonderful world of ASMR to help you zone out. Pop your headphones in, read on, and relax!
I was first drawn to this channel by its sleek and streamlined aesthetic, which sets it apart from the often busy and cluttered look of many other ASMR channels. She explores a range of audio ‘triggers’, playing with different textures and materials. She has an impressive microphone set-up, with three-dimensional recording allowing for some highly immersive soundscapes. Some of my favourite of her triggers are foam, and paper cups, both of which supply strangely satisfying and soothing sounds. She gets bonus points for always having immaculately and tastefully manicured nails. Below you can check out one of her foam videos.
This probably sits closer to the ‘weirdly satisfying’ end of the spectrum than the true ASMR end (the crunching is at times a bit much for me), but there is something quite mesmerising about these videos. Based around the almost-miraculous ‘kinetic sand’, Sand Tagious finds a seemingly limitless number of ways to mold, cut and squash the colourful material. Kinetic sand is normal sand coated in silicone oil, giving it qualities similar to clay. I’d quite like to get my hands on some of the stuff, as it looks like a lot of fun. In the meantime, I’ll have to satisfy myself with watching others make the most of it.
This channels wins points for sheer creativity. It finds seemingly normal household objects and reveals their secret ASMR qualities with crisp close-ups and amazing sound quality. You can never be quite sure what you’ll find next, from Matryoshka dolls to computer keyboards to plain old soap. Distracting as much for their visual interest as their sounds, these videos will make you think differently about (and perhaps start tapping) on all sorts of things you find round your home. Only a true ASMRtist could have you spending half an hour watching someone quietly and carefully unpack a sewing kit.
Have you given ASMR a try? Who are your favourite ASRMtists? Or is the whole thing just a step too far into the world of the weird for you? Let me know in the comments below!