OPINION: Don’t knock ASMR until you’ve tried it

A young man holds a piece of paper against a professional mic.
Everyone should keep an open mind about ASMR, writes Mishaal Ijaz SC ’24. (Courtesy: ELLE Taiwan via Wikimedia Commons)

If you have ever been so stressed that you needed something to help calm you down, wanted relaxing and non-distracting background noise while doing homework or just wanted to feel some “tingles,” listening to ASMR videos might be for you. 

ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, essentially describes a sedative sensation that moves from the scalp to the rest of the body. This sensation is triggered by sounds such as whispers and crackles, which ASMR YouTubers (ASMRtists) try to create in their videos. 

While the idea of listening to whispers and other sounds can seem odd, it is worth trying out. ASMR videos can be a great tool for relaxation, and since the videos are highly accessible, they work well for people who need to soothe themselves on the go. ASMR videos have been stigmatized as weird or even creepy, but remember that just because a relaxation method doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it can’t work for others. 

Detailed studies are still in progress on the effects of ASMR. However, one rigorous study found that a group of people who listened to ASMR had significant reductions in heart rate compared to the control group. Moreover, a different study examined brain scans and found that listening to ASMR lit up the same parts of the brain as when we are grooming ourselves, being affectionately cared for or interacting with a romantic partner. 

ASMR is a great tool for relaxation because there are a variety of videos you can choose from to fit your needs. If you despise the sound of nails tapping on a table, but love the sound of paper being crumpled, you can avoid some videos and choose the ones with your favorite “triggers.” If you are in the mood for a laugh or entertainment, there are some humorous ASMR videos such as “Rude Flight Attendant ASMR.” 

ASMRtists are also some of the most comforting and self-esteem building creators I have seen on YouTube. There are entire videos of ASMRtists relaying self-affirming statements to their audience. Words are very powerful, and listening to positive messages actually can make people think more positively about themselves. Even in videos not completely dedicated to self-affirmation, ASMRtists will usually include a supportive statement at the end of their videos to remind you of your self-worth. 

There are many people who express anger and frustration when they listen to ASMR. In some cases, this may be a result of misophonia. Misophonia is a strong reaction (usually hatred) to specific sounds. Another reason people may have an aversion to ASMR is because it can create a sensation that resembles feeling nurtured as a child. If someone has had a difficult childhood, experiencing sensations from that time may be extremely uncomfortable. 

The point is, if you don’t have misophonia, you should try listening to ASMR before passing judgements on it. If you end up hating it, that is a perfectly reasonable response. However, those who claim ASMR is strange without giving it a fair chance are not only blocking out a potentially helpful tool for themselves, but they are also disrespecting those who find it very important for their well-being. 

With W Magazine’s YouTube channel featuring celebrities such as Margot Robbie trying to give ASMR, it is my hope that it becomes more mainstream and socially acceptable. Since ASMR videos can be so helpful, they should get the most exposure possible. I remember when I tried listening to ASMR videos as a joke after seeing one of those celebrity videos, but now I find it to be extremely soothing. In whatever way you come into contact with ASMR videos, don’t be afraid to give them a listen. 

Mishaal Ijaz SC ’24 is from San Diego, California. She listened to ASMR while writing this article. 

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