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ASMR videos produce tingles, provide relaxation

Despite negative stigma students watch, create content to lower stress
Art by River Wu

With his room shrouded in darkness, junior Aiden Chen secures the headphones that rest on his shoulders, placing them onto his head as he presses play on an OolayTiger ASMR video.

His heavy eyelids slowly flutter shut. Soothing whispers, tapping and various other calming sounds enter his brain as he experiences sensations of satisfying tingles that begin in his scalp and trickle down his spinal cord, bringing him to a state of deep relaxation.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, often referred to as a pleasant sensation felt in the scalp that may travel down the spine, can be accompanied by a feeling of relaxation. Sometimes labeled as “tingles,” ASMR responses usually occur in response to relaxing sensory stimulations.

Craig Richard, the author of “Brain Tingles” and creator of ASMR University, an ASMR resource and news center, said researchers are still unsure about what benefit tingles provide or their underlying causes.

However, he said he has a hypothesis that several areas of the brain are active when an individual experiences tingles, based on one of his research studies.

“The activation of these brain regions in our study supports the likely involvement of endorphins, serotonin, GABA and oxytocin,” Richard said. “I believe that the tingles are due to some mix of these brain chemicals, with perhaps oxytocin being the most important.”

ASMR content has gained popularity on YouTube in recent years eventually making its way to other social media platforms such as Instagram and Tiktok.

Chen said his curiosity about ASMR and his interest in sound contributed to his first experience with ASMR.

“I would be described as an audiophile,” he said. “I really like making music (and) doing sound production. It’s interesting to listen to ASMR and to hear the different techniques they use.”

A female junior who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of negative judgment said she realized the extent of ASMR’s popularity when she came across ASMR videos created by celebrities.

“When Sabrina Carpenter made an ASMR video a few years ago, it made me realize how mainstream ASMR is,” she said. “I (also) just saw Sydney Sweeney do ASMR and that proved ASMR has grown so much more over time.”

The female junior also said ASMR tingles bring a satisfying sensation that helps her fall asleep.

“I get a lot of tingles, and the tingles help me sleep,” she said. “It’s really satisfying.  I know a lot of people listen to ASMR to help with sleep just because of how relaxing it is.”

Recently, ASMR videos have transitioned into more than just inducing tingles. According to CNN, only 20% of the population say they experience the tingles when watching or listening to ASMR content.

But Richard said that doesn’t necessarily matter.

“Many people feel relaxed and comforted by ASMR content even when they don’t feel the tingles,” Richard said.

Instead of listening to ASMR to destress, Gunn junior Nia Porter said she started creating ASMR slime content videos on Instagram during the COVID-19 pandemic. Porter’s videos on sounds made from playing with slime.

“I really liked the ASMR aspect of (slime) videos, so that inspired me to create my own videos,” Porter said. “I had a lot of time on my hands, and I thought that slime was a good creative outlet, as well as a stress reliever during a stressful time.”

To produce quality ASMR content, Porter said she invested in a quality visual and audio setup.

“I wanted to find visually appealing backgrounds, but also (a microphone) that sounded good,” Porter. “I would also increase the volume on all my videos to make the sound louder.”

With her successful production of satisfying ASMR and gaining over 1500 followers, Porter said she frequently receives positive comments from the slime community.

“People on the Instagram slime community are super big on commenting,” Porter said. “A lot of people would comment like ‘This ASMR is so good.’ or ‘This is so satisfying.’”

While some students pushback against the popularity of ASMR videos by saying the content is odd, the anonymous female junior said this stigma may exists because not everyone hears content the same way.

“ASMR may not be appealing towards everyone because some people definitely have a sense of hyper sensory that makes them uncomfortable with hearing those noises,” she said. “ASMR comes with a lot of positivity, but also negativity.”

Chen said he was teased by his friends after sharing that he watches ASMR.

“I hadn’t (told my friends that I watch ASMR) until recently,” Chen said. “But when I did, they mostly started laughing, which is to be expected.”

In response to those who contribute to the negative perception, Chen said the oddities of ASMR can be compared to the spectrum of music as a reference.

“It’s the same thing with music,” he said. “There’s obviously profanity in music, but there’s also a vast majority of music that is not profanity-based, like classical music. ASMR is the same. It’s a spectrum of how much (weirdness) is in the given audio.”

Looking forward, Chen said he sees ASMR continuing to change with the advancements of technology, particularly raudio.

“The evolution of ASMR is heavily tied to the evolution of sound design in general,” Chen said. “So as technology improves at an exponential rate for all things it’ll advance along with ASMR.”

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