For the love of tingles.
Or “autonomous sensory meridian response“, is a tingling sensation some people get in response to various stimuli. ASMR videos are created to provoke this sensory response through a combination of sounds, particularly soft ones, like tapping on a wooden surface or whispering. Oftentimes, the brushing and tapping is done directly on a microphone, bringing the sound directly into your ear canal. Not everybody gets the tingles, as they’re called. But for those of us that do, it’s absolutely fascinating.
Depending on a person’s sensitivity, the tingles usually start on the scalp and trickle down the nape of the neck and throughout the body. On YouTube, there is a large community of individuals – known as ASMRtists – who dedicate hours upon hours exploiting ASMR in their viewers. They do so through creative methods that include different types of “triggers”, which we’ll get into in a second.
Because ASMR is dependent on aural sensitivity, it is highly encouraged by ASMRtists and regular listeners to wear headphones during an ASMR listening session. You can play an ASMR video not wearing them, but trust me when tell you, you will be missing out on an optimum sensory experience without them.
Finally, ASMR videos usually run anywhere from 18 minutes to well beyond an hour in length. It’s an investment of time that goes both ways. ASMRtists pour a large amount of time into creating these videos, and it’s all done for an audience that has shown commitment to seeing them through. The other day, I came across a 20 hour ASMR video. That’s twenty hours straight of nothing but therapeutic stimuli created to calm you the hell down. There wouldn’t be content of this magnitude if there wasn’t someone out there demanding it.
So how do I ASMR?
In my case, because of the length of these videos, I’ve started incorporating them into my nighttime routine. They just sort of fit in there nicely without taking time away from the things I’m doing during the day. As soon as I’m ready to unwind, I kick things off with my skincare regime (of course!), and depending on how tired I am, I either browse the internet or catch up on shows on Hulu. But no matter what, I cap everything off with an ASMR video. I do this maybe twice or three times a week, and it’s been amazing.
The first ASMR video I ever watched was this DIY thing by ASMRequests, and at the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how far I would fall into the rabbit hole. Almost immediately, the tingles kicked in, and I freaked the hell out. The only other time I can remember ever feeling ASMR happening is once or twice while getting a haircut. All you dudes out there, you know what I’m talking about. Never did I think it was a sensation that people would trigger or actively seek out, or how effective it would be for that matter at easing the mind and calming a person’s mother flippin’ nerves.
After I discovered ASMR videos, eventually I started searching for them in other languages. And that’s when I stumbled upon Korean and Japanese ASMR videos. This changed everything.
Because of my very limited understanding of Korean and Japanese, all these years not only have I utilized music in those languages for entertainment, but also to act as a soundtrack in the background, be it while driving or doing work. So when I came across ASMR videos in Korean for the first time, not only did they do their ASMR job, but the fact that I didn’t understand any of the dialogue amplified their effect on me. Spoken Korean (and Japanese) is now another layer to the calming sensation ASMR videos have, and I lowkey consider it one of my many triggers in this magical abyss.
Now let’s talk triggers! Pretty much anything is game when it comes to what may or may not trigger ASMR, but I’m going to try to categorize some of them here as best I can, featuring some of my favorite ASMRtists.
We’ll start with Soft Spoken.
Soft spoken videos are the weakest triggers for me, but they’re still effective for decompression purposes. They, like most ASMR videos, are often combined with other, more stimulating methods of ASMR, like tapping on acoustically pleasant surfaces. In the video above, however, YouTuber Yame (야매) performs entirely in a soft voice, and I guess right now is a good time to inform you that male voices work wonders on me.
Yame’s voice is hypnotizing, and considering he’s one of the top male K-ASMRtists, I’m sure a ton of you agree. While I don’t care so much about this boyfriend role play he’s doing here (role play being another trigger), I think sonically this is one of the most effective soft spoken ASMR videos I’ve come across. It’s a borderline whisper, but his deep inflections give it a quiet, cutting feel. The binaural treatment is excellent, and you’ll hear this technique across most ASMR videos on YouTube.
Next is the Whisper.
Whispered videos are the most popular and effective at triggering ASMR. They are intimate, dynamic, and powerful. I never thought a whisper could have a remarkable amount of weight to it, but through smart editing and interesting recordings, ASMRtists have achieved the impossible. They’ve broken whispers into classes. For example, the video above is nearly 24 minutes of “inaudible whispering”, a type of recording that blends a bunch of whispered words and sounds together to create a dreamy soundscape. Other YouTubers give their audience “personal attention” through whispers. This is when ASMRtists talk directly to you like you’re besties (sometimes more?), asking questions or sharing random things about themselves with you (here’s a great example).
Whispered ASMR videos are everywhere, so finding a killer one shouldn’t be a problem.
Up next we have Role Play.
This category is hit or miss for me. I’m not very into role play, or at least not interested enough to find it satisfying. It doesn’t help that there are some pretty odd role play videos out in the interwebs, but every now and then I come across an ASMR role play video that has just the right variety of triggers to get me.
I will say, the fabulous thing about role play videos is that ASMRtists are able to be as creative as they want with the full spectrum of sensory triggers. It’s in these videos that I’ve found more nuanced sounds that I like to listen to.
For example, about 5 minutes into the second video above, Donghwa, who’s role playing as a barber, starts whirling around shaving cream into a lather, and I never thought listening to that sound would give me goosebumps. He goes on like that for another 7ish minutes, and in those 7 minutes I am in ASMR heaven.
If you’re looking for creative ASMR videos, the role play category definitely delivers.
Then there’s Hand Movement.
Hand movement videos are unique, in that they require your visual attention. A lot of these videos incorporate minor whispering, soft speaking, or, like in Tanaka’s case (first video above), a combination of the two. I don’t know if this is a strong trigger for many of you out there, but for me there’s something meditative about these types of videos.
The way I think of is that nearly all ASMR videos utilize a person’s hands to navigate through tangible triggers, so one could argue that the magic is all in the hands. Given the intimate nature of ASMR videos, it might also have something to do with the way we use our hands under certain intimate circumstances. Whatever it is, it’s working.
Finally, we have Tapping, Crinkling, Brushing, etc etc etc.
We’ve explored all of the vocal aspects of ASMR triggers, but the majority of the tingles you’ll get will come from this family of sensory stimuli. Tapping, crinkling, brushing, rubbing, squishing — all of these are certified hits at triggering ASMR, in one capacity or another.
The world is filled with interesting surfaces and objects to tap on, but some will undoubtably be far more stimulating than others. There are some objects that have a specific resonance when they’re hit, while others stick to the fingers in a way that picks up really well on a microphone. Sometimes, its the most common items that have the strongest effect at triggering ASMR. It was a tub of coconut oil that got me in this mess in the first place.
Do you experience ASMR? If so, what are some of the sounds and nuances you like to listen to in ASMR videos?