Understanding the Sensation Behind ASMR
To start, you should use earphones for the best experience. ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, has been a sensation ever since it was recognized as a real thing. The term seeks to encapsulate, at best describe, the sensation people get when they watch these stimulating videos
The first videos came out around 2009, and the initial reactions were confusion and curiosity. For some, it was a completely new experience. For others, it was the thing they never knew was needed. Be it tingles, whispers or nature sounds, people were fascinated.
ASMR is a vast genre. There are many different kinds of videos, each with its own “triggers”. Role play involves giving viewers close attention, like brushing one’s hair. Other videos capture cooking, cleaning or other mundane tasks. Mukbang is an example of a popular type of ASMR, with Korean YouTubers recording the food they eat, along with the crunchy, crispy sounds it makes.
But what makes people gravitate toward ASMR? Or better phrased, what about our reality pushes people to click?
Mental health is often the biggest reason. From politics to personal finances to relationships, stress is inevitable. ASMR, and the calming feeling it gives, has become an accessible alternative to therapy. For some, videos are even capable of even reducing anxiety and insomnia.
Oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone’ may be central to ASMR because the [behaviors] that trigger oxytocin release are similar to the [behaviors] that trigger ASMR. Additionally, oxytocin is known to stimulate feelings of relaxation and comfort, which are similar to the feelings described when experiencing ASMR.
– Dr. Craig Richard, professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at Shenandoah University
The after-effects of COVID-19 are equally undeniable. Isolation and loneliness were long-lasting, and many people expressed difficulty adjusting to this “new normal”. People came out of lockdown changed, looking forward to reconnecting and opening up to new experiences. One study found that those who listened to ASMR videos scored high in curiosity and neuroticism, and lower in conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness— essentially, they’re all for trying new things. For instance, there are many videos that involve encapsulating everything about a place, like a library in London or a coffee shop in Paris. A reasonable hypothesis for the popularity behind ASMR could be its ability to transport the listener to any destination in its entirety— just a simple click of one’s mouse.
Neuroticism, and significantly lower levels of Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness compared to matched controls. Further, ratings of subjective ASMR intensity in response to 14 common ASMR stimuli were positively correlated with the Openness-to-Experience and Neuroticism dimensions of the BFI.
– Stephen Smith, professor of psychology at University of Winnipeg
To be honest, the science behind it is still developing. Many studies have tried to conduct research, be it physiological or neurological, but there are challenges. Still, there is no denying that ASMR has an effect. At the most simple motivation, listeners can take their minds off stressors, allowing them to rest in this stillness of time.
As we look toward the future, it is intriguing to consider the potential role of ASMR in society and culture. While innovations like virtual and augmented reality aim to transport us to new realms, it is essential to examine the fine line between immersive experiences and potential distractions.
ASMR has transformed from a niche phenomenon into a cultural one. In the future, it is expected to continue expanding its reach, evolving in response to advancements in technology and societal needs. With improvements in audiovisual technology, ASMR experiences will likely become more immersive and tailored to individual preferences, further enhancing the sensory experience.
Potential therapeutic benefits are already being explored, with evidence suggesting its effectiveness in reducing stress, anxiety and aiding in relaxation. In the future, ASMR could be integrated into mental health practices, offering alternative avenues for therapy and self-care. It could even be applied to areas such as pain management and sleep disorders, contributing to overall well-being.
Why stop there? The potential to shape cultural trends is very much there, influencing various forms of media, including movies, video games and virtual reality experiences. These kinds of content could be seamlessly integrated into immersive technologies, altering the way we see and interact with reality altogether. Things like socializing and making relationships would be transformed, building empathy, deepening connections and enhancing social interactions in online spaces.
ASMR is becoming prominent, an outlet that allows people to respond to the emotions they’re experiencing. Or, it gives people something to experience, period. Either way, this sensation promises to immerse us in something, take us somewhere that’s not here. An escape from reality? That’s fine— just make sure you come back in ten minutes.