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Hannah-LYZE This: The Whispered World of ASMR Videos

As you embark into this story, you’ll learn a bit more about what ASMR is, the human responses associated with this practice, stigmas connected to this form of content creation as well as my personal experience with the video format. So hush up and get ready to explore this world!


The Science


Google has an interesting website where you can look up consumer trends in their search history. The page for ASMR is called “ASMR videos are the biggest YouTube trend you’ve never heard of.” Published in 2016, it states that the term was coined in 2010 by a woman named Jennifer Allen and stands for autonomous sensory meridian response.


“Well, Hannah… what does that mean?”


The feelings with ASMR are described as relaxing and sedative sensations. It can also be understood as a brain massage initiated by soothing sounds, also known as triggers. Some popular triggers are tapping on different surfaces, hair brushing, eating sounds, whispers, etc. It’s also important to note that triggers can be visual as well. This is most commonly done with face tracing (or facial mapping) where ASMRtists will trace their fingers across the screen to simulate touching your own face. This is also known as a personal attention trigger. Other common personal attention triggers are applying make-up or soothing light colors and transitions.


“Okay, Hannah. So, I (maybe) understand what could cause this. But is there any science to back this up?” 


Actually, yes! This is a relatively new form of content, but studies have been done that show when certain parts of the brain are activated by ASMR triggers, there has been an increase in emotion and empathy. It also states that the smaller study done shows people who can experience the “tingles” as they’re called can feel more connected to each other. 


It’s science that helps you make friends, folks!


But beyond these few and far between studies of ASMR, the general consensus is that the triggers can be soothing for falling asleep to and to reduce stress.


“So if this experience can increase emotion and be used to de-stress or fall asleep, what kinds of negatives do people find with it?”


The Stigma


This type of content is really dominated by female and female-presenting ASMRtists (read like ASMR artists) so this can lead to claims that it’s based in sex. According to a Smithsonian Mag article, common comments on videos can range from “braingasms” to “whisper porn.” But, in a study done by Swansea, only 5% of polled people said they find the content stimulating in a sexual way.


Although the majority of people who make and enjoy ASMR content do so to relieve stress and help those in the pursuit of sleep, people may assume the art form is innately sexual because of feminine roleplays, which have roots in the porn industry. 


And this stigma can be damaging to those who enjoy the content and want to share its positive effects with others for fear of judgment! This is not to say that some of the roleplays in the ASMR community do not play off situations that could turn sexual if it were the plot of an adult video… but this isn’t what the heart of ASMR is about.


The Societal (Mis)Understanding


Before I really started watching ASMR, I had heard the term in my everyday life. It can be a misconception that ASMR only exists in videos. But even as I type this and my fingers go across my keyboard, the clacking has a rhythmic, relaxing element to it. If I’m bored in a Zoom class and tap my fingers along my desk, that can be sleep-inducing for those people who prefer tapping triggers.


ASMR has permeated culture subconsciously, and that means there could be a whole demographic of future enjoyers of ASMR without them even knowing it! That’s a pretty cool thought and partly the reason why I wrote this piece. I’ve found it to be helpful in my life and drawing attention to what ASMR is could potentially give my readers an outlet to destress. 


The (Sleepy) Experiences


I have been watching and listening to ASMR for at least 3 years now. One of the first ASMRtists I remember watching was Life with Mak. She was popularized through memes about her content, but she amassed a large following because of it as well. Mak is one of the younger creators I watch. That’s another cool part of this content creation—the barrier to entry into the community is very low. If you can speak at low volume or whisper and tap in a rhythmic fashion, you’re bound to find someone to watch the video.


That is also not meant to downplay the work they do. I definitely could not make relaxing and engaging content like my favorite ASMRtists. My favorite creator is Oceans ASMR. Oceanna (Ocean for short) has by far my favorite roleplay videos. She has a series of “kind rich girl” videos where she grows the character details, and it almost feels like a true friendship. 


I find that I use ASMR most often to fall asleep, but I do also watch videos if I’m having a stressful day. For some people, they like the white noise of a TV; I prefer videos with my favorite triggers in the background. 


Although I mentioned eating ASMR earlier, that is the one set of videos I cannot watch. My favorite tingle-inducing sounds include tapping, whispering, pen or pencil writing sounds and hair brushing. It feels like a sleepover makeover, which is a very popular theme of videos.

For a shortlist of other creators I like, see below


If you noticed, this list is composed of all female creators. I am sure there are great male ASMRtists out there, but I do not prefer their content.


Ultimately, I wanted to Hannah-LYZE this concept because it’s a video style that has greatly changed my relationship with anxious thoughts and sleepless nights. It’s a somewhat abstract art form, but I hope someday I can scream from the rooftops about the ways this whispering world has vastly improved my own. 


My name is Hannah Hippensteel, and I like to say I'm a Chicago city-slicker, but I'm actually from the 'burbs. I'm currently a senior at Winona State with a major in mass communication-journalism and a minor in sociology. Catch me enjoying all Winona has to offer: the bluffs, the incomparable Bloedow's Bakery, and not to mention, Minnesota boys. With a goal of working at Teen Vogue, Seventeen or Glamour magazine, I'm soaking up every opportunity to keep my finger on the pulse and share my personal voice!
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