Lifestyle

Lost in a Sea of Sound: The Phenomenon of ASMR

Some will love it, some will hate it. Which are you?

By Melissa Farthing, Staff Writer/Artist

It’s the end of another strenuous day of being a college student. “Time for bed,” you think sleepily. After brushing your teeth and shutting off the light (to the annoyance of your roommate), you hop into your plush bed, grab your phone and type the letters “ASMR” into the YouTube search bar.

For someone who has never heard of ASMR, the acronym is a total mystery to them. What in the world does ASMR stand for? Alligators slicing magical rocks?

Actually, ASMR is a shortened version of a term that describes a particular sensation. According to sleep.org, ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. This term was first coined by Jennifer Allen in 2010, revealed in an interview conducted by ASMR University. When Allen invented the name, she wanted to create something that “would capture the key components of the sensation without the possibility of being…too removed from the actual experience.”

But what is this experience, exactly? When someone has an autonomous sensory meridian response, they undergo a pleasant “tingly” sensation that usually appears in the top of the head or spine. This physical feeling is often relaxing and soothing, and it may even make the viewer fall asleep.

Factors that induce ASMR are called “triggers,” and they include a wide range of audio and visual stimuli. People who experience ASMR often react strongly to things like soft sounds or slow, gentle motions. Some examples of triggers include whispering, tapping on objects, fabric sounds, hand movements and face brushing.

Although ASMR has not been accepted as an official scientific term, many people have reported experiencing it before they even knew what it was. One source that many claim was their first true “ASMR occurrence” is “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross, a show that ran on PBS from 1983 to 1994. Ross’ quiet, comforting voice mixed with the velvety brushing against the canvas produced a soporific feeling in a large chunk of viewers, a sensation we now refer to as ASMR. It wouldn’t be until nearly fifteen years after the show’s end that ASMR began taking off on the internet.

In regards to this takeoff, some may say that it emerged at the speed of sound (Get it? Because ASMR has to do with sound?). Less than a decade ago, ASMR didn’t exist as a tangible thing. If you look up “ASMR” now, you’ll immediately be inundated with thousands of videos that intend to induce this phenomenon. 

Between this large amount content, how can one ever choose what ASMR videos they want to watch? The best answer would be to figure out what ASMR you respond to the most intensely. A specific trigger may bring relaxation to one person, but another may find it annoying. 

Not everyone has the ability to experience ASMR, but for those do, it can be a great tool for dealing with insomnia, anxiety or related issues. It’s easily accessible, free and doesn’t impose danger on anyone. Plus, many ASMR videos are just flat-out entertaining and fun to watch.

If you’re struggling with falling asleep or are looking for a new way to chill, check out ASMR. You may find it helpful, relaxing or (hopefully) both. 

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