What Is ASMR?

“ASMR.” Most people have heard and recognize this acronym due to the rise in popularity of ASMR videos over the past few years, but not many know what it stands for. And while ASMR videos are intuitive for some, they may not totally make sense or feel familiar to others due to the extremely niche content and intense audio. 

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, more commonly known as ASMR, is a sensory experience involving sensations one may feel as a reaction to various stimuli, or “triggers.” These sensations can be either physical or psychological, including but not limited to tingly feelings throughout your body and/or feelings of euphoria, comfort, tranquility, relaxation, and sleepiness. A few examples of popular sound triggers are whispering, tapping, brushing, and mouth sounds, but triggers can also be visual, such as light, hand movements, and painting.

The origin of ASMR supposedly began on the Steady Health Forums in a thread called “Weird Sensation Feels Good,” in which the original poster okaywhatever described an intriguing sensation triggered by various stimuli. Another member, tingler, replied by naming the sensation as Attention Induced Head Orgasm, or AIHO. In 2008, a Yahoo group titled “Society of Sensationalists” was created to serve as an online community for those who shared these sensations, and consisted of over 3,000 members. In February 2010, Jennifer Allen, creator of a similar sensation-focused Facebook group, coined the term Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. The ASMR community slowly but surely gained traction following 2010, when the first ever ASMR event, “Hug Your Brain Day,” was held.

According to Google Trends, interest in ASMR has grown exponentially since 2010, and there are now approximately 12,300,000 ASMR-related videos on YouTube.

While there is some controversy around ASMR, the ASMR community on YouTube often serves as safe space for those who struggle with anxiety, problems with attention/focusing, and sleep issues. Joyce Lee, Tisch sophomore, is just one individual who has found ASMR to change her life for the better: “I’ve been using ASMR to go to sleep basically every night for the past six years, even before it was a thing. It usually takes me about two hours to fall asleep without it or any other sleep aid.” 

Liv Chai, Gallatin sophomore and Dining Editor at Washington Square News, agrees: “I’ve always appreciated outlandish artistic takes on mundane things and ASMR does just that. It’s such an interesting art form and a refreshing thing to see on social media. I think, especially now, people are embracing oddities and this is just a sign of being more open to different forms of beauty. Of course ASMR is not for everyone but despite it being a niche interest it has so many different focuses that cater to many groups. My favorite is food ASMR just because it’s so satisfying to see people eat food so deliciously, taking care to accentuate each bite or slurp.”

However, not everyone appreciates ASMR as an art form and many find it to be either hard to listen to, which is totally understandable. Steinhardt sophomore Stephanie Zhang explains, “I personally don’t watch ASMR because I’m very sensitive to noise, so not all noises sit right with me.” Because most popular ASMR content creators (lovingly known as ASMRtists) invest in extremely high quality binaural microphones, the sounds often seem as if they’re actually inside of your ear, which can definitely be uncomfortable for those who share the same opinion as Zhang.

If you have trouble sleeping or focusing on your work and haven’t yet hopped onto the ASMR trend, don’t be afraid to plug in your headphones and listen to some tingly triggers. It may just give you the “head orgasm” you never knew you needed!

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