Is ASMR weird?


Leslie Salgado

Orlando Reyes embodies the act of silence.

Eight years ago, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) became known to the public through YouTube videos. ASMR occurs when people experience some sort of tingling sensation that mainly travels from the top of their head down to their neck, spine, and limbs. ASMR is caused by certain sounds and visuals, known as triggers, such as whispering, tapping, scratching, hair brushing, hand movements, 3D binaural, personal attention, and many others. ASMR became well known by being featured on popular explore pages such as Instagram and Snapchat. It is an interest that no one talks about; it is a hidden guilty pleasure to many. Which leads to a burning question: is ASMR weird?

There is little information about ASMR since it first surfaced in 2010. There’s still not an official scientific reason as to why people feel these tingles, but it might be linked to a synesthesia gene according to James Loke Hale (Swansea University). Neurologist  Steven Novella thinks that it could possibly be little seizures since they can be triggered by auditory stimuli. BBC reporter Nick Hallmark had his heart and breathing monitored by a team of students from Sheffield University’s Department of Psychology when watching/listening to ASMR with earphones to get the full experience. There were three videos in total, two ASMR related videos and a noisy pasta making video. The students found that out of the three videos Hallmark watched, the ASMR ones caused him to feel calm, unlike the pasta video where Hallmark had an uneasy feeling.

Even though ASMR remains a mystery to the principles of science, it is widely known for its ability to help relax people. According to a research study, 33 percent of these participants watch ASMR videos two to three times a week for relaxation. 30 percent of participants actually listen to ASMR every day for sleep. ASMR also comes into play for reducing anxiety and depression, although it is not a treatment.  

Senior Eleny Rendon reveals that she enjoys ASMR due to its relaxing nature. When asked about her initial thoughts on ASMR she answered, “At first, I felt kind of weirded out by ASMR. I’m not going to lie, hearing ASMR at first was a bit weird, and I would cringe, but after a while, I took a liking towards it.” She also said, “In my opinion, I think that some people don’t like it because they find it creepy. I was one of those people who found it creepy and just weird in general…”

While there are ASMR enthusiasts like Rendon who enjoy triggers such as soft whispers and hair brushing, there are also those who tolerate it or just simply avoid it.

Junior Jazlynn Sanchez said, “It’s alright, I mean I’m not obsessed with it or anything, but i’ts kind of enjoyable sometimes. I like the cutting soap videos because when the blocks fall, it’s a nice sound.” Sanchez continues with, “It kind of bothers me because there are some videos where the noises are too weird for me… especially when people are eating or whispering… it makes my spine tingle in a bad way.”

Sanchez seems to accept the soap cutting ASMR which is more of a visual trigger, which additionally makes soft sounds that the soap creates by falling onto a surface and onto other pieces of soap.  

Sophomore Ethan Kolenyi says, “I don’t like it at all. It makes me aggressive… I don’t know it’s very irritating to me. I know there’s different kinds of ASMR like people eating, and it bothers me because we’re taught not to eat like that, and they’re obnoxiously chewing on purpose.” Kolenyi feels strongly about mouth sounds and does not understand it, but acknowledges that people used this as a stress reliever.

To summarize, ASMR initially comes off as weird to several people, even to those who like it. There are different methods that people do in order to de-stress from their everyday lives and ASMR is one of many.