‘Satisfying and interesting’: An exploration of ASMR

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It’s a Tuesday night. All the week’s work is piled up on your desk. After grinding for the entire day, you realize you have to do the same thing tomorrow. The stress sets in. You won’t have time to hang out with your friends or even have some time to yourself. It’s all just busy, busy, busy for you.

You need some way to relax. The stress is about to pop you. After a couple of clicks on your laptop, you come across a peculiar video on YouTube: “ASMR 10 Triggers to Help You Sleep.” Out of curiosity, you click on it. The sensations that flow and reverberate throughout not only your body, but also your being, hit almost immediately. You feel a tingling sensation at the top of your spine, and as it travels down your back and through your system, you can’t help but shudder and close your eyes in relief. Suddenly, there’s a change. Soft scratching sounds give way to the gentle flow of water in what can only be described as 4K ultra-HD sound. The tingles intensify, and soon, the only thing left to feel is untethered tranquility and the soft call of sleep. The last thing you hear as you fall asleep is a final, soft and gradually fading, “Good night.”

Autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, is that tingly sensation described above. It can be triggered by certain sounds and visual cues, frequently light yet distinguishable tapping, scratching, whispering and other mundane noises. Frequently, those who create videos based on ASMR, known in the community as “ASMRtists,” may role-play certain scenarios, such as cutting hair in a barbershop, to create a context for the triggers. Other times, ASMRtists will create the basic sounds and layer them on top of one another to intensify the sensation.

ASMR is easily one of the best things to come out of the late 2010s. It has been around for quite some time, but really launched upwards in popularity around mid-2017, and it has not looked back since.

Along with being a very satisfying and interesting way to go to sleep, ASMR-inducing sounds can go a long way for de-stressing. I have recently tried listening to ASMR-inducing sounds while working instead of my Spotify playlist, and the results are tangible. I work much faster when listening to ASMR-inducing sounds because of the lack of distractions, and after I finish working, I feel much more energized and rejuvenated. Listening to ASMR-inducing sounds while working makes me look forward to working.

Of course, it doesn’t always go that well. Sometimes, when I’m feeling excessively tired, listening to ASMR-inducing sounds while working will actually make me fall asleep in the middle of working. This, however, can be taken as further proof of the effectiveness of ASMR-inducing sounds. It is so strong that even without meaning to, it can relax people and put them to sleep.

Personally, I have been listening to ASMR-inducing sounds for the last two and a half years. In that time, I have come across a multitude of videos and even more types of triggers. Some of the coolest ones I have seen are the fastest ASMR video ever (the ASMRtist goes through about 100 triggers in 10 minutes, tapping incredibly quickly), barbershop ASMR videos (the ASMRtist pretends to cut hair using scissors and other barber tools, spraying water occasionally for soft spraying noises) and light triggers (the ASMRtist periodically shines light in certain ways to induce a tingling sensation). As I watch ASMR videos more and more, however, I have come to realize that I have built up an immunity of sorts to the tingling. I need to watch more and more ASMR videos to get that sensation. Therefore, it may be a good idea to watch them only in times of need, lest the sensation be minimized and rendered useless.

One of my favorite things about ASMR is that anyone can create sounds that induce the feeling, even those who do not usually get the tingling sensation. Anyone can pick up random objects, tap on them and make random triggers out of them. Anyone can post videos like those and expect to be received by a wholesome, supportive community of ASMR-listeners and ASMRtists alike.

Contact Hamzah Alam at [email protected].