That Tingling Feeling Called ASMR
OGDEN, Utah – Logan Smith has posted videos of himself trimming an artificial plant, massaging a microphone with latex gloves and poking a microphone with marshmallow Peeps — and lots of people watch.
He says people play his media files 20,000 times a day. Why? For a tingling feeling, he says.
Smith is what’s called an ASMRtist, someone who makes videos that give some viewers a tingling sensation called autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).
One night a decade ago, Smith couldn’t sleep and went looking online for some white noise. He found a video by a woman who called herself “WhisperCrystal.”
“She whispered on camera,” he said, “and it really, really triggered something in my childhood,” like the tingles he felt when someone whispered in his ear and when his cat purred.
“It’s almost like a sound massage,” he says. “It felt like somebody’s fingers were massaging my ear.”
Through the internet, people who experienced that same sensation connected. One of them named it ASMR, and now a YouTube search for ASMR videos yields millions of results – people tapping on a cereal box, scratching a purse, squishing putty, and of course, whispering. There is lots and lots of whispering.
“I watch the whole thing grow from being a niche on YouTube to an international phenomenon,” Smith said.
The most-watched ASMRtists include Gibi at Gibi ASMR, who does a lot of whispering while roleplaying. Three million people watched Gibi’s video of her scratching – for an hour. Twenty million have watched Maria of Gentle Whispering ASMR whisper in “3D sound.”
Smith’s big hit was a video of him eating strawberries.
“I think the only rule of ASMR is it has to be quiet, it has to be a soft sound,” he said.
Martina Pollard’s fashion blog, Reverie of Roses, includes a photo feature about a peachy pink and black ensemble, a photo spread of fall home décor… and a video of the Salt Lake woman eating a cucumber and whispering about it.
“Yeah I’m just eating a cucumber and talking about how delicious it is,” she said.
Just like Smith, Pollard discovered ASMR on YouTube when she too was having trouble sleeping.
“Going to school full time and going to work full time and I had a lot of anxiety and a lot of difficulty sleeping,” she said.
She ran across a video of WhisperCrystal counting.
“I listened to it with headphones on with my laptop at the time and I instantly fell asleep within five minutes,” said Pollard. “This is a natural and incredibly relaxing way for me to just calm down.”
There is little scientific explanation behind ASMR, but Pollard and Smith guess it dates back to their childhoods.
“Maybe it’s something that started when I was a baby or something and someone helped, cooed me to sleep,” said Pollard. “Someone read to me softly or talked to me softly.”
“I think what it is, is you’re being transported back to when you were a child,” Smith said. “When your mom would hold you and whisper in your ear.”
“It’s sound and that’s what’s magical about it,” Smith said. “You can actually get a massage through the Internet, through the power of the Internet, through your headphones.”
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