Back in 2007, hardly anyone had heard of ASMR. We enjoyed the tingles at home, or at work, loving people’s soft voices at the coffee machine, and the gentle crinkle of the newspaper without really understanding why. Then, in a tiny corner of YouTube, the first few pioneers, such as WhisperingLife, began switching on their cameras to share their whispers with the world.
At first, participation was relatively slow, very few people understood the purpose of these ‘weird’ videos and those who did kept this newfound knowledge to themselves. Gradually, more and more people discovered that they too experienced the joy of tingles. ASMR gurus such as Maria AKA Gentle Whispering, Heather Feather and Ally AKA ASMRrequests started making regular videos and all of a sudden there was an explosion of role plays, soft speaking, crinkly noises, tingly triggers, let’s play, or make and even storytelling videos from different artists around the world.
Ephemeral Rift became known for his surreal, strange and yet bizarrely effective videos. WhispersUnicorn carved out a name for herself via her Tingle Bites series and on it went. The other Danish girl, The One Lilium captivated us with her Hypnotic gaze and Springbok ASMR won our hearts with her extraordinarily specific role plays. Suddenly, it seemed like a new ASMRtist was popping up every week and now a quick search reveals a constant stream of amazing digital content.
As word spread ASMR’s popularity grew, and with that came TV appearances, radio phone-ins, magazine articles, online commentaries and YouTube responses to other artists videos. Thanks to Patreon, subscribers could now donate money to their favourite artists, inspiring them to make better, brighter content. There are now new ASMR meet ups and online hangouts, PixelWhipt produces quality 360 degree, Virtual Reality content, and the wonderful Emma AKA WhispersRed ASMR just led an extraordinary, not to mention highly original, live ASMR session for the Changing Minds Festival at the South Bank Centre, London.
However, ASMR is rooted in something gentle, relaxing and therapeutic. It has helped with depression, anxiety, mood and sensory disorders, headaches, insomnia and much more. Research has shown that regular relaxation is beneficial in both educational and corporate environments. It is an intimate experience shared between you and the ASMRtist free of distractions, comments and interruptions. One key argument is that the real magic of ASMR lies in its innocence and simplicity. Repackaging ASMR for the masses would inevitably mean a change in the way content is created and consumed. For example, imagine briefly that instead of Yoga, or Zumba, weekly ASMR classes were a reality.
You would turn up, armed with a blanket, cushion and personal headphones to listen to a live performance, role play or haul. Instead of the comfort of your home, you are in a public place amongst others yet the same overall effect is achieved. Gradually, you’d stop worrying, looking around at others and start focusing on your breath, listening to the words and then, slowly, softly relaxing. In today’s time-poor society the benefits of this fixed period, allowing yourself to relax and unwind, would far outweigh any embarrassment or, indeed, awkwardness.
At that moment you would be entirely focused on yourself, experiencing tingles without the temptation of skipping to a different video. Of course, ASMR isn’t for everyone, so the next obvious question is would enough people feel comfortable about sitting, or lying in a room full of strangers when they are perfectly happy listening at home? Would the artists themselves struggle to transform digital content into a real world scenario? Do particular ideas work as a live production? Might tingles be diluted by the atmosphere, technical issues and the ASMRtist’s own reticence?
It’s hard to say if this way of doing things could, or indeed would, work long term and WhispersRed’s live ASMR session proved to be somewhat controversial. User Tanner Waterbury clearly disagrees with the idea, stating that ASMR is a very private, intimate and above all solitary experience. Emma herself suggests that the chosen venue wasn’t ideal and thus responded: “This is not how I imagine the future of such events, this is just the start. ASMR is deeply personal to all of us, including me and I respect that always.”
Yet, as you scroll further down the screen, other users are clamouring for precisely this type of live, immersive ASMR event. One person even suggests that in future appointments at ASMR clinics will be commonplace, the same way we regularly visit the GP surgery. Overall, it’s hard to say what the future of ASMR will be and it seems that viewers fall into two main camps. The first, being ASMR purists, seem to want to keep things as they are, having the attitude of ‘why fix something that isn’t broken?’ Whereas the ASMR pioneers could quite happily attend public ASMR sessions, envisaging a greater response and, therefore, a greater understanding. Personally, I feel that ASMR is an excellent method of relaxation that should be accessible to anyone who wishes to experience tingles. However, the idea of mass ASMR tents, seminars or broadcasts makes me feel just little uncertain. Having said that, I really like the idea of content creators getting together under one roof to share their experiences with the audience.