By Production Manager Catherine Charlebois
Have you ever experienced a pleasant tingling sensation while hearing sounds like whispering or tapping? You were probably experiencing Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR.
According to Wikipedia, ASMR is “an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine.”
In recent years, an emerging genre of YouTube content has been exploding with a variety of ASMR-targeting videos.From soothing soap carving, mic tapping, and finger fluttering, to whispered roleplaying, rambles, and stories, everyone’s triggers are different.
The videos spur varying reactions in viewers; some find it disturbing or uncomfortably sexual and others find it mesmerizing. While some may find it unappealing, others like Marina Bridal, use it for therapeutic purposes.
Having been diagnosed with generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder at the age of 16, the first year University of Victoria student swears by the videos. After finding both therapy and medication unsatisfactory, Bridal sought out other methods and discovered ASMR by accident.
“I was getting into yoga and I really liked my teacher’s voice,” she says. “It was like reiki which is also relaxing, and then even more accessible were the PsycheTruth massage videos.”
Having been an avid “tinglehead” for a year and a half now, Bridal has noticed a marked decrease in stress and even noticed a change in her world view.
“I listen more to the sounds around me and I have learned to appreciate people with really nice voices,” she says. “I almost exclusively use it to sleep, but I also like to play one in the background during panic or a breakdown. It sorts me out.”
Brendan Barlow, a VIU social work student, just can’t get behind the rising trend.
“ASMR is one of those strange corners of the Internet that I don’t totally understand,” he says. “But also know that I don’t really need to. Obviously, it does something for the people who watch it, even if I really don’t get it.”
Though some, like Barlow, dismiss the videos as nothing but creepy, Bridal encourages viewers to see for themselves.
“I think it isn’t for everyone’s tastes,” she says “Even just as a means of relaxation and not necessarily triggering ASMR ‘tingles’, I think people should give it more of a chance.”
To date, there have been few scientific studies done on ASMR enthusiasts. In a study conducted by Swansea University trying to determine the spectrum of reactions sparked by “triggers”, found that despite the prevailing critique that ASMR is sexual in nature, the response was closer to that of non-sexual intimacy.
In a Guardian interview, grad student Emma Barratt and partner Nick Davis, who conducted the study, sought to dispel common misconceptions.
“There are a lot of people who latch onto some ASMR videos involving attractive women and dismiss what we found to be a very nuanced activity as exclusively sexual,” said Barratt.
In fact, only 5 percent of the interviewed ASMR users in that study sought out ASMR for sexual pleasure.
According to Davis, “It really is about feeling relaxed or vulnerable with another person.”
A sassy French Canadian with a penchant for puns and coffee, Catherine is The Nav’s Production Manager. Living out of her planner, she is always looking for ways to streamline the paper’s production. You can find her writing in The Nav and also at frozenconstellations.wordpress.com