Imagine this: you’re scrolling through videos on social media until you chance upon a video of a girl eating seafood with enhanced audio of each chew, bite, gulp, and swallow.
Next thing you know, you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and have consumed multiple videos of this type for hours on end without you even noticing.
There’s nothing specifically unique or exhilarating about the video, but for some reason you get hooked to it, even addicted to some point. Have you ever spiraled down into this rabbit hole in the realm of social media, especially on Youtube?
When you first encountered it, I am sure you have wondered, as well– what’s so unique and enticing about this type of media? Why is it so relaxing to watch and binge?
This type of media is called ASMR, and it has been gaining fame since 2009. And with the increase in social media use in the last few years, the hype over ASMRs has doubled or even tripled over time.
What does ASMR stand for and what is it, really?
ASMR officially stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” and is also referred to as brain massage; yes, it’s a mouthful so everyone just refers to it as ASMR.
In technical terms, ASMR refers to a tingling and calming sensation some people report experiencing as a response to close personal attention or certain audio or visual stimuli.
Unfortunately, not everyone experiences the sensational effects of ASMR. But for those who do, they describe it as a pleasurable sensation they feel from the top of their head and sometimes this travels through their spine and limbs. This sensation also often goes along with a delightful feeling of relaxation and drowsiness.
As much as we only found out about ASMR online, we can also experience it in real life! Have you ever experienced someone coming close to you and whispering something close to your ear then you get sudden chills that are sometimes accompanied by goosebumps?
That’s ASMR right there.
But for millennials and Gen Zs, the term ASMR is often used to describe social media posts that elicit this sensation. There are thousands of them on different social media platforms, so let’s dig deeper into the world of ASMR.
When and how did ASMR become a “thing”?
We all know by now how famous ASMR posts are. In fact, according to the Top 100 Youtube search queries globally in 2021, ASMR is the third most researched term with 14,655,088 search volumes.
We all know how famous it is now, but how did this actually become a “thing”?
According to the ASMR University podcast episodes, the term ASMR is said to have started way back in 2010 and was coined by Jennifer Allen. Jennifer first started participating in the first major online discussion of the sensation in 2009.
Then in 2010, she coined the term ASMR, created a Facebook ASMR Group, and a website www.asmr-research.org. The following year, she founded a Facebook ASMR Page and then lobbied Wikipedia for the first ASMR entry.
But even before Jennifer formally created a word to the sensation, 29 October of 2007 is popularly known as the birthdate of the ASMR community.
It started through a post of a user named “okaywhatever” in a forum thread of a website; the title of the post was “Weird sensation feels good” and it has garnered over 300 replies. 300 replies were pretty huge at that time and most of the comments became the foundational description of what ASMR is.
But outside the ASMR videos we find online, ASMR has also developed into a scientific field full of research and studies.
What is now known as a social media phenomenon actually just started from a random forum post and a Facebook group and page separately created by two people.
How did ASMR become a social media phenomenon?
More than a decade after the coining of the term, there are now over 13 million ASMR videos on Youtube alone in 2021.1 There are more platforms that have numerous ASMR content, so it’s easy to say that the number is way beyond 13 million.
And given the increase in listeners and the expansion of the community, it seems like ASMR isn’t going anywhere in the near future.
The first ASMR Youtube video was posted on March 26 of 2009 by a young woman whose Youtube channel is named WhisperingLife. It is known as the first whisper channel on Youtube.2
People who intentionally post ASMR videos online are famously called ASMRtist. The rise of ASMRtists has been gradual throughout the years; they have moderately multiplied year by year since 2009.
In 2019, the top 10 ASMRtist have garnered a collective 5.7 trillion views. And in 2022, the hashtag #asmr currently has 12.5 million posts on Instagram.
The pandemic is also speculated as one of the main factors why the hype over ASMR videos ballooned throughout the pandemic. According to Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers in a news article, ASMR videos helped people fall asleep, reduce anxiety, and feel calm amidst all the uncertainties and chaos brought by the pandemic.
Especially with the lack of access to mental health help, people often resort to other things just to soothe their minds. Additionally, Dr. Albers also noted that one of the benefits of ASMR is social connectedness, according to a recent study.
The study reported that people who are attracted to ASMR got a sense of connection since most ASMR videos only consist of one person providing soothing content.
What are the benefits of listening to ASMR?
Research on the ASMR is, unfortunately, only on in infants years; but luckily, there are already few studies on its physical and mental health benefits.
One of the leading studies on ASMR is entitled “More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology” which looked at its effect on the mental and physical health.
The study concluded and suggested the following benefits for people who experience ASMR when watching ASMR videos:
- It elicits positive affects such as calmness and excitement.
- It is an activating experience that reduces heart rate and increases skin conductance (aka electrodermal response).
- It is also an arousal activity (non-sensual) that increases excitement and skin conductance level, an indicator of physiological arousal.
- It evokes a feeling of increased connectedness which is said to be due to the social and interpersonal context ASMR triggers.
- Notably, it was seen that ASMR is not associated with sexual arousal.
All in all, the respondents reported that watching ASMR videos give a pleasant, calming but also activating experience which was also empirically supported throughout the implementation of the study.
The researchers pointed out that the study’s results are consistent with the general consensus that ASMR videos regulate emotions and may have therapeutic benefits for those that experience ASMR.
Why can’t other people experience ASMR?
Even when millions of people are in the ASMR wagon, there are, unfortunately, still a lot of people who can’t hop into it. Why is it that some people don’t experience ASMR?
According to an article on ASMR tingles that interviewed researchers from Northumbria University in England, having high levels of neuroticism may be a predictor of one’s ability to experience ASMR.
They stated that having higher levels of anxiety gives you a higher probability to experience brain tingles and the consequential soothing effects.
More than personality traits, one of the researchers also posits that it can also be due to people’s gene sequences. There are people who have different gene sequences that make them more sensitive to oxytocin, a hormone also known as the love drug, and other hormones that affect the experience.
If you haven’t experienced any brain tingling while watching a variety of ASMR videos, worry not since it does not mean that you will never feel it. Some people just haven’t found the right video or the right ASMR trigger for them.
So just watch as many diverse ASMR videos as you can, and maybe you’ll find “the one”.
What is the science behind ASMR?
The question remains: what happens to people’s brains whenever they watch ASMR videos for them to experience those sensations?
According to a study on fMRI imaging and ASMR, the respondents, while limited, who experienced ASMR had significant activation in regions of the brain associated with both reward and emotional arousal.
These brain activations also have similarities to patterns previously observed in musical frisson and affiliative behaviors.
One of the researchers of the study was specifically intrigued with the effect on the medial prefrontal cortex, which is the hub of the brain’s social network.
ASMR is indeed like social grooming– a stranger talks to you in a calming and non-threatening voice; stares at you with a caring gaze; and makes gentle and soothing sounds that make your brain automatically move towards trust. This movement toward trust also releases oxytocin that lights up certain areas of the brain.3
As of the moment, only limited scientific studies on ASMR have been done. There is so much more to uncover about ASMR, like its linkage to personality traits, other body activations, and even which neurotransmitters are also involved.
What are the most famous types of ASMR triggers?
If you wanna be a famous ASMRtist, want to watch more videos, or want to finally experience the sensations; here are the six most common types of ASMR triggers:4
- Sounds – Gentle whispering, nail tapping, paper crinkling, keyboard typing, page-turning, or even chewing fall under this category.
- Visuals – ASMR is not always about auditory cues, some visuals can also be stimulating to be considered ASMR such as videos of people mixing paints, hair play, massage, slowly slicing objects, or even mushing slime.
- Role-play – Some ASMRtist is in the niche market of creating connection through ASMR, this entails videos of prolonged eye contact or petting the camera lens like they are looking right at the watcher.
- Eating – This may be one of the most famous types of ASMR. It’s satisfying to watch and hear other people eat, chew, gulp, and slurp their drinks and food.
- Crushing – The most famous ones under this category are kinetic sand, sponges, or slimes being squished or crushed. Additionally, there are videos that use a hydraulic press or a car to crush any objects.
- Tactile – Even outside the world of video streaming platforms, you can experience ASMR like physical touch, tickling of the arm, or even having someone draw on your back using their figures.
What are the best ASMR videos of all time?
It is true that there literally are millions of ASMR videos out there, but we want to help you out by enumerating some of the best and most popular ASMR videos of all time (not in order):
- GentleWhispering’s Sleep-inducing haircut – the creator who started the phenomenon on Youtube
- ASMRMagic’s ASMR 50+ Triggers over 3 Hours (NO TALKING) Ear Cleaning, Massage, Tapping, Peeling, Umbrella & MORE – 88M views
- PearFleur’s MAKING PAINT: BLUE IRIS – 9M views
- So Satisfying’s ASMR Video compilation (No Music) RELAXING – 30M views
- Gibi ASMR’s Fastest ASMR | Dentist, Eye, Cranial Nerve, Sleep Clinic, Lice, Ear Exam, Ear Cleaning, Makeup, Spa! – 40M views
- Moonlight Cottage ASMR’s Returning From A Late Night Ball | ASMR Servant Roleplay – 6M views
- FrivolousFox ASMR’s Kissing Your Screen [ASMR] ~ Glass Kisses Effect – 8M views
- HunniBee ASMR’s ASMR EDIBLE CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE, SPOONS, HAIR BRUSH, POPPING BOBA, BUBBLE TEA, MOST POPULAR FOODS – 86M views
- Jane ASMR’s ASMR RAINBOW CREPE CAKE, EDIBLE SPOON, MACARON, NERDS ROPE JELLY – 281M views
- Hongyu ASMR’s MOST POPULAR FOOD FOR ASMR *RAINBOW PARTY* POPPING BOBA, JEWELRY JELLY, GUMMY, COOKIES MUKBANG – 326M view
- San Tagious’ Very Satisfying and Relaxing Compilation 148 Kinetic Sand ASMR – 87M view
- Hydraulic Press Channel’s Top 100 Best Hydraulic Press Moments | Satisfying Crushing Compilation – 54M views
There are still so many out there! Just hop onto your preferred video streaming platform and search ASMR, you’ll be in shock at how many there are around!
How has the rise of ASMR revolutionized mainstream media and advertising?
Unbeknownst to many, ASMR is not only found on social media; advertising companies, PR agencies, and mainstream media are also hopping into the trend and taking advantage of it.
It is and will continue to revolutionize how content is created, not just on social media but on other platforms, as well. More and more brands are trying to incorporate ASMR into their advertisements.
Long before the ASMR phenomenon, the usual model of advertisement was to shout and continuously mention their products for it to stick in the consumer’s head; this is the exact opposite of ASMR.
Advertising companies have been trying to integrate ASMR into their ads since 2015, and people have opposing views on this. ASMR enthusiasts believe that this is a start of a new era of advertisement while the others claim that it will just go like any other fad.
In fact, Google searches for ASMR peaked in February of 2019 when a beer brand aired an ASMR-triggering advertisement during the Super Bowl. In the commercial, American actor Zoë Kravitz gently whispered about the brand, tapped on the bottle, and poured out the fizzing cold beer.5
In the world of television, ASMR has yet to be intentionally used; however, there are a lot of unintentional ASMR scenes in movies and TV shows.
In fact, one of the most famous and notable ASMR scenes in movies is in Toy Story 2 where Woody’s arm, which was formerly ripped off, was repaired by old man Geri. You can hear Geri’s stitching and painting, accompanied by the sounds of spray painting and cotton swabs.6
Interesting Facts about ASMR
- The highest-earning ASMRtist is Jane ASMR from South Korea who has almost 9 million followers and earns more than $500,000 per month.7
- Some people’s pupils dilate when watching ASMR videos, according to eye-tracking research.
- According to research on misophonia and ASMR, people who experience ASMR are highly susceptible to having misophonia, a common disorder in which certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses.
- The most viewed ASMR video as of 2021 is Jane ASMR’s video of eating rainbow crepe cake, edible spoon, macaron, nerds rope jelly. As of writing, it currently has 281,313,256 views.
- The top 25 ASMRtists of 2020 earned an average salary of $1.2 million per year.8