Imagine this: you’re lying in bed scrolling through YouTube and glancing at video after video. Some from your favorite creators, a few suggested videos about life hacks for folding your clothes you have to try, maybe a video titled “Pastry Chef Attempts to Make Gourmet Twinkies.” Chances are after a few minutes of clicking and falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole that is the YouTube suggested page, you’ll come upon a video with the words “relax” or “tingles” in the title. Click, and the hushed sounds of whispering voices, fabric rustling, tapping fingers, flipping book pages and more fill your earbuds. This is an ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) video. Becoming wildly popular on YouTube over the past few years, ASMR is a way many people relax, and what some consider a form of entertainment.
ASMR is the feeling that some experience when hearing certain soft sounds, or “triggers.” It starts as a tingling feeling in the scalp, spreads down into the neck and shoulders, even the arms and legs in some cases. This peculiar feeling is usually accompanied by a sense of calm or deep relaxation similar to a massage. ASMR is often referred to as “brain tingles.” Scientific research into the effects of ASMR started in 2015, just as it was becoming more mainstream on content platforms like YouTube. Published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PeerJ, The Department of Psychology at Swansea University in the United Kingdom conducted a study to “describe the sensations associated with ASMR, explore the ways in which it is typically induced in individuals, and to provide further thoughts on where this sensation may fit into current knowledge on atypical perceptual experiences.” This study also focused on how ASMR could be used to diminish symptoms of depression and chronic pain. This study was the first of many to come focusing on the ever-growing phenomenon.
With the widespread sensation that is ASMR, for many no scientific explanation is needed to validate the pleasant and useful experience. Creator (or cleverly named “ASMRtist”) Jingle Jangle ASMR says that she needed a creative outlet and ASMR seemed like the perfect way to express that creativity. “I was desperate for a hobby,” said Jingle Jangle, “so ASMR videos seemed like the perfect avenue for that.” With over 33,000 subscribers on YouTube, Jingle Jangle ASMR has been in the business of relaxation for a little over a year. “I got into doing ASMR because I’d been watching ASMR videos for almost four years at that point. Not only at bedtime, but while at work, eating, sitting in the car, on walks, getting ready in the morning… I was obsessed.” She says that ASMR is not only a form of relaxation but a very inventive, complex form of entertainment. “Character role-play videos especially allow for so much artistry, creativity, and originality.” ASMRtists like Goodnight Moon and Phoenician Sailor, garnering 535,000 and 85,000 subscribers respectively, set vivid scenes with intricate props, makeup, narratives, and illusions. Jingle Jangle says it is “to the point where it’s almost like you’re watching a film or series.”
“When I first stumbled upon it, [ASMR] was very much a tight-knit community and I felt slightly hesitant to bring it up with the people in my life because it was so much more niche,” says Jingle Jangle. As the general population seems to be growing in understanding of the unique art, more videos pop up all over YouTube, so many that there was an app created for the sole purpose of ASMR. The Tingles app is a video platform for ASMR where fans can watch without loud ads and support artists through monthly subscriptions. While YouTube is great for discovering new artists, it proves difficult for long term viewing. Most ASMR creators monetize their videos on YouTube to be compensated for the dedication put into creating consistently. This results in sometimes loud and disruptive ads in the middle of videos that jolt viewers out of an immersive ASMR experience. The Tingles app was created to create a better ASMR viewing experience.
Some of Jingle Jangle ASMR’s own popular recurring series of videos on her channel are her “Reading Spooky Stories” videos, where she gathers well known or less heard of scary stories from online sources or as submissions from her audience, and reads them in a soft-spoken voice and lulls subscribers to sleep. One subscriber comments on a spooky video, “Never thought I could have scary stories whispered to me. Great video!” and “I was having a hard time getting to bed, guess some creepy stories should do the trick!” She also edits vlog style videos with her whispered voice narrating beautifully shot footage of her travels or just going vintage shopping. The connection formed between an ASMR creator and their viewers can feel like talking or sitting with a friend and relaxing simultaneously. From simple whispers to intricate role plays, ASMR is continuing to grow and evolve, on YouTube and beyond, every day.