That Tingly Feeling: ASMR Explained by the Experts
The term ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is used to describe the tingling sensation which exudes from the neck, down the spine and throughout the body when a person is exposed to certain aural of visual stimuli. You could describe it as massage with no hands, and its effects are just as relaxing for those who experience ASMR.
There has been very little study conducted on the phenomenon, so the biological reasons for the sensation are unknown. Those who claim to experience ASMR simply come to the conclusion on their own, and the age of discovery of a propensity for ASMR may vary. The experience has been compared to many things. ASMR has even been likened to an orgasm (except the location differs, of course)!
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU EXPERIENCE ASMR?
Living with ASMR seems a strange thing: something which presents itself as early as childhood, yet it’s a puzzle to explain the sensation to another person. How does one explain spontaneous tingles at the back of the neck while a person whispers in their ear, or turns a page delicately?
This is something which ASMR Artist and resident YouTuber Heather Feather found difficult when she first experienced ASMR.
“When I was little, I used to call the feeling “shocks” and no one understood what I was trying to say… Most of all, I would feel the sensation when someone with a soft voice would talk”.
As an ASMR artist, Heather tries to recreate the stimuli which produces the tingly sensation characteristic of ASMR, or rather, she tries to produce ASMR “triggers”.
WHAT ARE YOUR TRIGGERS?
Triggers differ from person to person, but common triggers include whispering, scratching and tapping, personal attentions, blowing, the painter Bob Ross, page turning/soft paper noises, role plays, touching the head, watching someone execute a task well.
Common first time triggers include hair brushing, personal attention from a teacher or childhood friend, yet these can also differ from person to person. Songs have also been known to be triggers. These triggers can relax the individual significantly and many use ASMR as a sleep aid or as a method of coping with stress.
Although the feeling has been compared to that of an orgasm, ASMR and sexual preference or sexual stimulation may not be necessarily linked. For example, some women may prefer the work of a female ASMR artist simply because of the tenor a woman’s voice is softer than that of a man’s. Heather Feather recalls a time when her mother would trigger her ASMR as a child.
“I would get “shocks” when my mom drew on my back with her finger (X Marks the Spot), when kids would pretend to pour tea when they were playing with each other, when teachers would write with soft chalk on a chalk board, or use a pointer to identify locations on a map”.
However, as little study has been done on ASMR ,there is no empirical evidence to suggest that sexuality and ASMR cannot be linked.
A commonality among those who actively seek out the experience of ASMR is that they may not know exactly what they are looking for. It could be something as simple as a sudden urge to search for someone “whispering” on YouTube. This is something both Heather Feather and The One Lilium shared when they discovered ASMR.
“When I first discovered ASMR I didn’t even know what it was. I’ve had this tingling feeling all my life in tonnes of situations but back in 2010 I started to search for hypnosis videos, then I got into whisper videos and eventually I discovered that the feeling was called ASMR” says Lilium.
For Heather, trying to actively reproduce the feeling of ASMR exposed her to a tricky minefield of possibility.
“About 3 to 4 years ago, I began to “chase” the feeling. I started searching “female soft voice” or “hair brushing” or “nail tapping” on Youtube. I would use makeup tutorials, hair tutorials—even fetish videos (hair and nail) to get the feeling. I chased it anywhere I could, ‘cause I loved it, but I would only be able to find short random clips that would work for me – and often they were in videos that I wasn’t too keen on viewing (the fetish ones)”.
ASMR ARTISTS AT WORK
From “chasing” the feeling, Heather and Lilium gradually warmed to the idea of making videos for others to enjoy. One can see from these two masters of the art that there is much to be considered when devising content for their You Tube channels.
The two have garnered a large following online. Heather Feather has 166,223 subscribers 32,498,593 views while The One Lilium Channel on You Tube has 96,453 subscribers
and 17,745,379 views. That’s a lot of tingles!
“I very much consider what I like myself but also what might be interesting and triggering for my audience. Fulfilling requests is something that I do once in a while but mostly I have to feel inspired and in the mood when I make a video”, says Lilium.
Heather takes a similar approach, feeling her way through different mediums and viewer comments in order to shape her content. “Before I make a video, I decide what triggers I want to use, and then I decide what kind of video I want to make. The triggers I want to use depend on feedback I have gotten from my viewers about sounds they like, sounds I want to experiment with, and letters my viewers send about how they are doing”.
And, as with Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Heather often feeds off the mood of the viewer’s comments when making her videos.
“If I notice a trend where a lot of people have been feeling down, I will attempt to make an uplifting ASMR video”.
It’s clear from video to video that personality and the connection with the viewer is a very important factor to the ASMR artist. One has to trust the artist in order to fully relax and let the tingles do their “thing”. Heather’s bubbly disposition is a real bonus to her videos and she’s not afraid to share a few “Easter Eggs” either.
“A lot of my viewers have said those videos feel like “hanging out with a friend” and it means a lot to me that they feel that way. If I am doing a role play, I build a story around the triggers, and try to reference things I love – TV shows, movies, games, quotes, and so on – in it as hidden Easter Eggs for people to find.”
With Lilium, there’s something about her hypnotic and somewhat intoxicating gaze that allow the viewer to truly chill out and empty the head of all negative thoughts.