ASMR: why is watching someone poke slime amusing to us?

By Percy Mohn

Elm Staff Writer

One of the weirdest trends to sweep the internet is the surge of ASMR videos. These videos range from making and poking slime, to cutting soap in oddly satisfying fashions, to roleplay videos where you are sick with the plague and a medieval nurse is taking care of you.

In fact, there are over 13 million ASMR artists on YouTube creating videos. These videos are so bizarre that they often leave their viewers confused and maybe even horrified. However, other consumers of ASMR videos say that these strange videos provide great comfort and stress relief, even helping some get to sleep faster. But just what is ASMR, and is it helpful?

There is not a lot of science discussing ASMR, so much of our knowledge of the sensation comes from fans who experience it and ASMR artists who make such videos. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” which simply means that ASMR is an involuntary response of the autonomic nervous system to sounds such as whispering or tapping, as well as certain movements, such as gently waving your hands.

Fans of ASMR often refer to the autonomic response as “brain tingles” which generally start at the top of the head and travels down the back toward the limbs. This sensation is often linked to contentment and relief which can help ease symptoms of anxiety and insomnia.

This response, however, is not universal, nor is it constant. According to German Lopez of Vox, ASMR’s effect is different from person to person. Some people experience the sensation through gentle whispering, while other people prefer the sounds from simple mundane tasks. In my personal experience with ASMR, I experience the sensation from listening to people write with fountain pens. The ASMR stimuli vary greatly, and the strength of the response also varies. Some people may feel an extreme response, while other people feel nothing at all.

ASMR is not just linked to these specialized videos, designed to emit a response from the viewer. Sounds from every day life can also spark a response. For example, Bob Ross in “The Joy of Painting” accidentally created some of the first ASMR videos due to the proximity of his microphone to his canvas as well as his gentle tone of voice. These videos are where many people discover they can experience ASMR. Other people found out they can experience ASMR while getting a haircut, listening to people cook, or many other mundane tasks of everyday life. The goal of ASMR videos is just to enhance the stimuli that produces the response.

While the science on ASMR is limited, there are a few experiments being conducted on whether ASMR is as relaxing and stress relieving as fans report. As detailed in Science Daily, the University of Sheffield conducted an experiment to see if people who claim to experience ASMR are more relaxed after watching such videos. In the study, people who experienced ASMR showed a reduction in their heart rate and had higher positive emotional responses. It is important to note still that the science on ASMR is far and few between, but the studies performed so far show great promise for ASMR’s usefulness.

So, if you find yourself bored or needing to calm down, try watching an ASMR video to see if you experience ASMR. Best case scenario, you find the video calming and experience a relaxing nervous response. If the video does not evoke an ASMR response, you might at least find a weird and funny video to share with your friends. Who would not find the phrase “Gordon Ramsay ASMR” extremely amusing?

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