Before reading, please watch this video with headphones, preferably in a silent environment.
Did you feel some kind of weird relaxation while watching the above video? Ever had that tingly sensation when someone plays with your hair, types on their keyboard or talks to you in a way that makes you feel relaxed and comfortable, almost sleepy? If you said yes to any of the above, congratulations, you’re ASMR sensitive!
ASMR is an acronym that stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response”, a response of your nervous system to some specific sensorial/psychological stimuli (triggers). The most common ways of getting ASMR is through touch, hearing and seeing, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.
It’s hard to describe the sensation of ASMR. The best way to put it is a tingly sensation that starts on the scalp and rushes in waves across the spine and limbs. It’s extremely relaxing, sleep inducing and pleasurable.
There is a whole community of "ASMRtists" on YouTube: people who are dedicated to producing videos using HD cameras and binaural microphones, which capture high fidelity 3D sound, in order to give the viewer the sensation of hearing sounds very close to their ears, which in turn may trigger ASMR response, or “the tingles”, as they are popularly known. In this myriad of videos, you can find a world of things: role-played soft spoken doctor appointments, whispered book readings, ambiance sounds, ear cleaning simulations or simply no-talking hands manoeuvring objects from ear to ear.
As the microphones used most of the time are professional stereo, binaural and highly sensitive, the smallest sound of one nail tapping a glass gets amplified and can be heard as brightly as something being dropped down on the floor, and that is the purpose of it. Because of such high sound sensitivity, human interaction on the videos have to be soft spoken or whispered, which helps to contribute to another important aspect for ASMR, which is the psychological perception of feeling safe.
Don't get me wrong...
I feel that it is important to say that there is nothing sexual or fetishist about ASMR, although this is a common misconception about the subject. To be fair, there are a few ASMRtists that embed in their videos some sort of sexual energy in order to get more followers. Am I judging? Not at all, but it’s definitely not what the vast majority of the community is about.
ASMR videos are about comfort, making one feel safe, relaxed and taken care of in order for the triggers to take effect, otherwise the “tingles" cannot be felt. There are a lot of people that use the videos as a form of therapy to aid sleep, insomnia, depression and anxiety, and that is why the community is so strong.
Through the videos, triggers are presented mainly on the form of sound and visuals, but in reality people can get ASMR even from psychological experiences based on subjective perceptions. For example, many people get a response simple from the fact of feeling taken care of by someone's warm and inviting presence. This is why there are so many role-play videos on YouTube, as they combine the visual/auditorial triggers with the psychological experience of being nurtured by another person (usually a female, attractive, motherly-ish figure, although there are also a lot of highly cherished male artists as well).
But what is it, exactly?
In the beginning of this article, I brought to your attention the possibility of you being ASMR sensitive. That’s because some people aren’t, and science still doesn’t know why. The internet phenomenon, however it has been going on for a while, has just started to get their attention, but most of the questions still don’t have any answers. Are the brains of ASMR sensitive people any different from the ones that don’t feel it? Or is it more related to being in a psychological state and the ability to be open to new experiences than to brain wiring?
Some people in the community speculate that it is strongly correlated with childhood memories: the tingles are felt when the stimuli trigger the memory of something similar that happened to the view as a child. So it is believed that someone who wasn’t cuddled and caressed as a child is likely to be less sensitive to ASMR. But again, that is all speculation. The fact is that ASMR sensitivity is really difficult to test and measure, not only because it’s a highly subjective experience, but also because the instruments commonly used to scan brain activity are the complete opposite of relaxing. As I said before, being safe, cozy and comfortable are key to experience ASMR. And again, those feelings can be evoked by the environment or simply by someone’s energy.
How can ASMR help you in your student life?
All I know is that regardless of any scientific findings, I use ASMR videos on a daily basis. They help me relax and unwind from a long stressful day. They help me calm the rush of thoughts and be gently induced to a state of calm and bliss, and to a restful and sound sleep.
So, is ASMR for you, or do you find it weird? I encourage you to go and find out. Get cozy and comfortable, then go to YouTube, type “ASMR” and see what pops up.
(by Daniela Navaes, MA User Experience Design at LCC)