Anyone whose curiosity has been piqued by the recent flurry of articles about ASMR—also dubbed “brain tingles” or “eargasms”—may understandably have several questions about the phenomenon. What is ASMR and why is it so popular? Here are a few general insights.

• “ASMR” stands for “autonomous meridian sensory response”: Essentially, ASMR refers to a pleasurable tingly sensation that is felt in the scalp or upper back in response to one of several possible stimuli: soft speaking, whispering or specific sounds such as a pencil writing on paper. Estimates vary as to what percentage of the population has ever experienced this phenomenon, but it is sufficiently widespread to sustain a thriving community online centered around YouTube channels devoted to it.

• Modern ASMR is a relatively young phenomenon: Although it’s safe to say humans have experienced ASMR-like sensations since time immemorial, the modern phase started in early 2009 when the first “whispering videos” began being posted on YouTube—videos that have grown substantially in length, complexity and viewership ever since.

• Bob Ross is the patron saint of ASMR: The much-beloved TV art instructor, who passed away in 1995, lives on in videos posted online of his show The Joy of Painting, which originally ran from 1983 to 1994. Ross’ deep, relaxing voice is credited by many contemporary ASMR fans as giving them their first experience of this phenomenon long before it had ever been given a name.

• Some YouTube “ASMRtists” have millions of subscribers and views: Although obscure ASMR channels can be found all over YouTube, some individuals have catapulted to a high level of fame and recognition within the community. As of mid-2019, for example, a young woman named “ASMR Darling” had accrued upward of 2.3 million subscribers and her most popular video had been viewed more than 32 million times.

• Roleplay ASMR videos are among the most popular: Some ASMRtists have gone to elaborate lengths to produce their videos, harnessing everything from ornate costumes to special background effects. Roleplay videos, in which the artist acts out the role of a doctor giving a cranial nerve exam, a barber giving a haircut, etc.—are popular favorites.

After the tingles it provides, perhaps the most pleasurable aspect of ASMR is the thrill of discovery—clicking through video after video to discover the best new (and classic) examples of the genre. For those who experience ASMR, have fun and tingle on!

© 2019 Silver Disobedience Inc.