Welcome to Learned, a short, weekly look at some of the odder things you might find yourself wondering about. I’m Joel, professional educator and amateur word nerd and this week, I learned about ASMR.
Hang out on YouTube long enough and you’ll come across videos of someone making soft, gentle noises of some kind. They might be gently whispering a lullaby, turning the pages of a book, or just…breathing…at you. Collectively, these kinds of videos are known as ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and they’re meant to make you feel good.
many people feel a physical sensation akin to a shiver in your spine
these sensations can be triggered by a number of things like the ones mentioned above, but
it is a very personal trigger, which is why there are so many subgenres
there are two broad categories of ASMR - natural sounds and
personal attention - someone talking to you or otherwise giving you their attention
although the physical response is pleasurable (to most people) it is not sexual
modern descriptions, categorization, and study effectively began in 2007
I became aware of ASMR videos some years ago, took a quick look at a few and decided, eh, not for me. And that’s more or less where the matter stood until…ok, one of my favorite games and one that I spend way too much time in is The Sims 4. Sims 4 fans can be roughly divided into two categories - players and builders. I’m one of the latter. I rarely play the game as it is meant to be played and instead spend hours building houses that would cost a small fortune if they were ever built in real life.
YouTube Channel Devon Bumpkin is hosted by a very talented Sims 4 builder named Aden. A few days ago, during a build video, he mentioned that one of his next projects would be an ASMR video. Two things jumped out at me, almost simultaneously - one was my own reaction of mild disbelief and a feeling like I could skip that one, but the second was Aden’s own reaction. He said that it was a bit silly as ASMR videos didn’t do much for him, but he knew some of his fans really liked them because they helped with anxiety and so he’d do one for them.
I’m always on the lookout for a good anxiety remedy. Especially these days. So, I decided to dip back into the waters of ASMR. Unfortunately, it’s not my thing. Of the various videos I tried, honestly, most of them just bored me and a few creeped me out. I’m not linking them because I don’t want to add any negativity to what those creators do. They do their thing and if it works for them, great. Just not my thing.
Don’t get me wrong - a calm, soothing voice speaking reassurance does wonders for all of us, but I need the content of the words, not just the sounds. Like this: Sandi Toksvig on YouTube.
But, for people who do get a physical sensation from people whispering or soft noises or other types of videos, they do seem to have a positive effect against anxiety. The phenomenon has not been widely studied, but anecdotal evidence suggests that, well, it works for the people it works for. In these very stressful times, you might try a few and see if it helps.
And that’s it. That's the first issue of Learned Vol. 3, the no-frills, no fat season. Feel free to comment or to talk to me on Twitter about what you liked and didn’t like about this issue.
Stay safe, stay curious. Learn something.