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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

How I came across ASMR:

My first experience with ASMR was in 2018. I was scrolling through YouTube when a video of a woman in front of a microphone popped up on the homepage. Out of curiosity, I clicked on it and was instantly mesmerized by the visuals and sounds emitting from the video. I wish I could describe how soothing the sound of someone whispering into a microphone made me feel. Unbeknownst to me, I just had my first encounter with ASMR. There was no stopping me once I fell into the rabbithole that is the world of ASMR. Four years later, these videos give me reliable comfort and relaxation in times of extreme stress and insomnia. 

What is ASMR?

Coined by Jennifer Allen in 2010, ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is the sensation you get when you watch and/or listen to visually and/or audio stimulating videos. In simpler terms, most people describe it as a tingling sensation that runs through their brain and down their back. However, ASMR is not a universal experience as certain people are immune to specific triggers, or do not get tingles at all!

The boom in the ASMR industry 

The ASMR industry has been blowing up over the last few years, especially on platforms like YouTube and Twitch. Videos of larger creators (or “ASMRtists,” as they like to call themselves) tend to do extremely well, with many hitting millions of views consecutively. The rise of interest in the phenomenon has also challenged creators to step up their game. Creators with larger audiences often have elaborate setups. Multiple microphones, soothing yet colourful backgrounds and actual props (instead of green screens) are all part of their videos. Some ASMRtists have even left their day jobs because of the sustainable income they’ve gathered from creating these videos on the internet. Many have also launched Patreon channels, offering memberships to viewers who might be interested in receiving more content and insight into the creative process behind their favourite videos. 

Jane ASMR, arguably the most popular ASMRtist, has almost 16 million subscribers. She creates daily videos of her eating various kinds of foods. A popular platform that has created a space for ASMR is TikTok, with the #ASMR boasting over 242 billion views. Creators go live on the platform, allowing listeners to request their favorite triggers in real time. Since the TikTok algorithm also pushes live videos on the “For You Page,” the exposure has allowed these ASMRtists to promote the content they make on other platforms as well. 

The interest in ASMR has extended to the world of pop culture, with YouTube channels like W Magazine and M2 creating ASMR segments. Videos of celebrities like Cardi B and various K-pop idols exploring ASMR have gone viral on the internet.

Common Triggers

The activities (also known as “triggers”) that are incorporated in ASMR videos vary on a really wide spectrum. While some ASMRtists tend to keep their videos simple and focus on just one trigger, others go all out with role plays and 32D audio. As is with anything on the internet, trends within the ASMR scene tend to evolve at a lightning fast pace. One day, you are getting a cranial nerve exam from a “doctor” and the next, someone is reading a chapter of a Harry Potter novel to you. Some of the most common triggers that have withstood the test of time include mic brushing, spray sounds, paper crinkling and words of affirmation. Role play videos are also very popular on YouTube. Personal attention videos, in which the creator cuts your hair or cleans your ears, tend to do extremely well on the platform.

ASMR Embarrassment 

Although ASMR has become more popular in recent years, many people have come forward about keeping their indulgence a secret. They have expressed feeling embarrassed about listening to ASMR due to the sexual connotations surrounding it. This is because an ASMR experience can be intimate. A person whispering in your ear can be seen as sexual in many situations. However, it’s not meant to be, and many ASMRtists clarify that in their videos. The triggers they use just seem sexual in nature. Unless the video itself is sexual, ASMR is not inherently, overall. 

Benefits of ASMR

Although the science behind ASMR is basically nonexistent, people have expressed how the phenomenon has aided them in times of anxiety and insomnia. Watching ASMR videos can help slow one’s heart rate, putting them in a state of relaxation. Viewers have revealed that these videos have helped them unwind after a long day, feel comforted (especially by personal attention ASMR) and experience less anxiety and stress. Personally, I have noticed how listening to these videos before I go to bed has helped me during many sleepless nights. Watching these videos serves as a distraction from anxious thoughts and makes one feel calm. It is important to note that while ASMR might be helpful in these situations, it is not a viable replacement for evidence-based medication and treatment.