For a long time, I’ve wanted to talk about this subject but never been quite sure how. I’ve never spoken to family about it, rarely my friends, and when I try to explain it to my boyfriend, I find myself left with a very confused, skeptical man staring back at me. It’s a subject that, over the years, has become even closer to my heart because I’ve become aware of the good it can do for other people. It has grown from a strange, secret love, to something that is finally being discussed and recognised as really changing people’s lives, so I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences too.
Last week, both STV’s This Morning, and Sky News Swipe’s Gemma Evans, decided to investigate ASMR. For those of you who don’t know, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It’s a sensation that differs slightly amongst people, but is predominantly a euphoric, tingling/static sensation that starts in the scalp and moves its way down the body as a response to certain triggers. It is a feeling that inspires a state of pleasure, peace and complete calm. The most common triggers are the sound of someone whispering or tapping/scratching various objects made of different materials. Triggers are typically sound induced, however, for those who experience ASMR more intensely, like me, these can extend to certain visual triggers, too.
A simple google search will convince you it’s a sexual thing and an even deeper (excuse the pun) search will land you watching videos of people whispering to a camera whilst playing with household objects. To the person who’s never heard of, nor experienced ASMR, it is easy to understand why they might make these judgements and deem the whole thing dirty and something that should be hidden. But none of this is true. The difficulty with ASMR is that you either experience it, or you don’t. Therefore, explaining it to someone who doesn’t, feels a lot like trying to convince an athiest that God is real.
Just last week, however, mainstream media finally decided to address the topic and shed a light on the truth behind the YouTube videos out there, dedicated to role-play and hours worth of footage of someone whispering to a camera. As someone who has experienced these tingles every since I was a little girl and being unable to explain it, the publicising of it on British TV was monumental to me.
Recently, the ASMR community has blown up in front of my eyes and a person at the forefront of this revolution (yes really, I am this passionate) is Emma Smith, or better known for her YouTube channel and social media persona, ‘WhispersRed’. If this post does anything, it will pay homage to this incredible woman and ASMR artist, who is changing the lives of hundreds of people from her garden shed.
Because the thing about ASMR is that it goes beyond just my pleasurable experience of it and bears much more importance for those who desperately need calm in their lives. Without having met her (though I dream), I believe and trust that Emma is the kindest, most caring and loving woman, with a true passion for helping those in need. ASMR can be a life saver for those who struggle with every day life; people with insomnia, autism, anxiety, depression, and many other mental or physical illnesses, can find the idea of tranquility elusive or impossible to posses. Thus, for many, ASMR videos are a short escape from reality where the hustle and bustle can be blocked out. I have followed Emma’s channel for years, watching her create hours of footage to see those with trouble sleeping throughout the night. One of her most recent videos, filmed throughout the night, is 9 hours long: a true testament to her dedication of helping those in need. I’ve watched her make do, filming videos in the early hours of the morning, because it was the only time that traffic and birds didn’t disrupt the sounds she was trying to capture and record. She saved money whilst feeding her children and paying bills to eventually build herself a soundproof studio known as the ‘Tingle Shed’, where she could film and work during better hours and with a better routine. I’ve watched her slowly but surely create quality content that many don’t understand but the few thank her greatly for. Those who find that the world can get a bit too much for them and need to retreat to a quiet space of calm and love and peace, find no less than solace in Emma’s hard work. I don’t consider myself to suffer from much more than occasional bouts of anxiety, so if falling asleep to the videos that Emma creates can soothe me even though I don’t need much soothing, then I can only imagine how beneficial they must be to people who really need them.
Emma was the first person to create an ASMR live show, which took place in the summer of last year. ‘ASMR Happens’ was a breakthrough not least because the subject was made public, but because Emma created this safe space for people from all over the world to attend and immerse themselves in, feeling truly valued and accepted. She used her social media presence to encourage love. She urged people who were going alone to communicate, meet up and attend together, encouraging friendships and bonds between people who felt alone in their experiences. It was a place where people had a common interest and a place for people to experience ultimate calm, something we all know is hard to find in everyday life.
I fully believe that the experiencing of ASMR is down to the type of person you are. With little scientific research out there and my own personal experiences, I’ve realised that the more logically minded people tend not to feel it. It’s much easier to describe the characteristics of people who do experience ASMR, and that is a person who is: empathetic, spiritual, romantic, sympathetic, loving and trusting and a day-dreamer. The creatives and artists and those who feel the world they live in rather than simply observe it. A polar opposite to my boyfriend, I believe that is why he finds it so difficult to grasp the concept of what I’m experiencing, when so much of his world views are based on reality, logic, calculations, scientific evidence and a struggle to see the world other than black and white, with
no in-between (I don’t mean he’s a horrible, narrow minded person, just opposite in nature).
My ASMR experiences are intense and incredible. My triggers are many, from the tapping of nails on glass or plastic objects to listening to those who are softly spoken. Since primary school, one of my triggers has been watching someone draw: the sound as well as the movement of the pencil on paper is hypnotic and at school, I often lost myself watching someone sketch in their jotter instead of doing my work. When people play with my hair I feel an incredible calm that is more than a simple enjoyment of having my hair played with. It really does send a tingling sensation right through my scalp and down my spine and it’s a feeling that makes me feel safe and loved and utterly trusting of the person giving me the feeling. But again, I stress, it’s not a sexual feeling. So much of our culture is obsessed with sex that I cannot stress enough, there are forms of innocent pleasure. My friend Lora often plays with my hair when I’m with her, braiding it or even curling it for me before a night out, and I could sit and let her at it for hours. To experience ASMR is to experience mindfulness. It’s a moment of complete, unselfish, self indulgence and even if you don’t experience ASMR yourself, I believe you can learn a lot from those who do.
There is little more important today than practising mindfulness and taking the time to slow down. ASMR shows that peace can be found even in the hardest of times, and if you don’t experience the tingles yourself, you can learn from those who do: take a minute to empty your mind and just breathe.