The newest way to get turned on is something quite out of the ordinary: solely through sound. The crisp crunch of someone eating tangy pickles out of a jar or the soft vibration of a whisper through a microphone are just a few examples of the sensory-porn that’s taking over the internet. Also known as autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), millennials are discovering sounds they find to be relaxing or satisfactory on Youtube, where hundreds of vloggers are gaining a serious following for their “brain orgasm” inducing videos. Compilations of people tapping their long, manicured nails on a hard surface or crushing cubes of soap, for example, have garnered millions of views.
Based on many conversations and YouTube binges, the tingle behind the sensation is a kind of pleasurable headache that creeps down your spine and is a shortcut to a meditative state of mind. This feeling is addictive and although many people usually get triggered by the oddest of sensations and sounds, it is said to not be sexual, but instead sensory turn-ons that are natural to possess.
The acronym ASMR was coined in 2010, but according to CNBC, the audio and visual induced sensation has always existed. If you’ve ever experienced that cringe-worthy feeling at the sound of nails dragging on a chalkboard, ASMR is the exact opposite. It’s more likely to trigger goosebumps — ones that are not brought on by fear, but rather pleasure. ASMR is not as satisfying through other simple audio recordings, but some original sources come from podcasts and audio books. Many people have been listening to these media outlets for years, and now the idea of ASMR is triggering a new idea of interest with an added visual element that comes with video. Like podcasts and audiobooks, many people use ASMR for health issues such as insomnia or anxiety. Its soothing sounds can help with relaxation and some scientists are wondering why.
As this pop culture phenomenon has gained mainstream attention, researchers have been trying to answer the question behind why ASMR is so mentally stimulating for some. “Our studies show that ASMR videos do indeed have the relaxing effect anecdotally reported by experiencers, but only in people who experience the feeling," said lead study author Giulia Poerio of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology, according to the Forbes website. The study reported that the highest levels of positive emotions and lowest levels of negative emotions, and their heart rates dropped to levels comparable to what’s been observed during mindfulness meditation, according to the site.
Mark West, a Rutgers professor in the Department of Psychology, explained why ASMR’s arousing qualities are hard to understand. He described this trend as “difficult to operationalize, which is always required in scientific studies. But psychological phenomena are complex, difficult to capture in mere words, and many are not yet well characterized. ASMR seems to be triggered by a large range of stimuli, intensities and situations,” he said.
As euphoric and sensual as this experience is for people, the youtubers that are gaining fame and fortune from this are getting enjoyment out of their new job and are lucky enough to be using things in their videos that are right from their own home. Some of the most tingly ASMR artists include Gibi ASMR, ASMR Darling, Gentle Whispering ASMR, ASMRTheChew and lately everyone’s new favorite, LifeWithMak.
ASMR works differently for everyone. What triggers a good sensation in one person can be worse in another. Some of the most popular triggers that these youtubers experiment with are tapping, scratching, brushing, softly spoken whispers, chewing and roleplaying.
One popular ASMR video is the “Pickle ASMR Eating Sounds/Big Crunch/Intense” by ASMRTheChew. With big pickles come juicy crunch sounds, and almost all of the comments under the video say they feel starving and oddly satisfied after watching.
Another favorite is the “Typing Chewing Gum ASMR Eating Sounds” video that leaves you with chills due to the artist’s long nails and soft-spoken chewing. The video plays for more than an hour, leaving viewers wanting more and wondering why when they chew gum, it doesn’t sound the same.
Another favorite among Rutgers students is LifewithMak. In one video, she takes the time to act out an entire scene on an airplane while whispering, and even films a sassy police officer roleplay. Did we forget to mention she’s only 14?
Eisha Pascual, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, is an avid viewer of ASMR content and uses earphones instead of a speaker when enjoying her favorite sounds. “Always use headphones when listening because you can engage your senses and mind, which is the best way to be present in the moment. It’s the newest way to relax,” she said.