ASMR and the Amazing Internet
I never fail to be amazed by the power of the internet. Everything and everyone previously considered rarities of the world come together on the internet and give us the impression that they are not so rare after all. The most crazy and obscure lifestyles can be googled and entire communities found for things as unusual as “adult babies.”
The irony of the increasingly globalized world is that the more we mingle with it, the more isolated we feel in the long run. The internet gets a bad rap for destroying “real” personal relationships, but I think that it acts as a necessary side-kick to globalization.
Long ago, people lived in smaller isolated communities. Culture and tradition was strong within each group. The larger communities became, the harder it was to hold onto shared experiences and tradition. Individuality is wonderful, but when everyone is so unique that we can hardly identify with our own neighbor, it makes for a lonely world.
Introductory ramble over, let me get to the original inspiration for this post. Autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. A phenomenon completely unknown to the world a few years ago, although many people experienced it long before it was a “thing.” Without the internet, it would probably still be an unknown, experienced by a lucky few who each think they are the only one in the world who experiences it. I am one of these.
For the most part, I thought nothing of it. When something triggered my ASMR, I appreciated the experience, but I rarely sought it out on purpose. For some reason, I never associated a particular trigger with the response except for while it was happening. I’d listen to a hang drum (one of my triggers) and think, “oh yeah, hang drums! I forgot how nice those are!” And I might spend the next 15 minutes or so looking up videos of people playing the hang drum (or a marimba or tibetan singing bowl). The sound alone is a mild trigger, but its stronger when I can also see the person playing the instrument.
Watching someone write on a chalk board is also a trigger. But I rarely appreciated it. It made me sleepy in math class. In fact, I used to attribute the sensation to lack of sleep and stuffy air in the class room. I took to ordering a triple shot of espresso before class in college to ensure that I would stay awake. I recently learned that my brother, too, is triggered by this and he also thought of it as an annoyance.
When I think even father back to my childhood, one of my earliest triggers was watching my mother doodle. She loved to draw house plan designs on graph paper. I don’t think she was ever aware that I liked watching her draw, and usually I didn’t creep around her shoulder for too long at a time so she wouldn’t wonder what the heck was wrong with me. haha.
ASMR was coined as a term in 2010, having gone by a few other names in the years following up to its widespread internet presence. I only heard about it last year. I was watching a video by one of the people I follow on youtube and she decided to make an ASMR video just for fun. Having no idea what that meant, I looked it up and discovered the larger ASMR community on youtube. What an exciting day that was! To find out that I am not the only one. Don’t get me wrong, being one-of-a-kind is fun, but not so much when no one can even understand what i am talking about when I explain my “unique” experience.
I had only ever mentioned it a few times before. To my mother, sister, and husband. I described it as the “warm fuzzies.” Not that the sensation is particularly “warm” but I really had no idea how to explain to it people whom I thought didn’t experience it. I have since learned that my husband is triggered by certain types of music (his music triggers are more complex than my simple percussion triggers) but when I described it to him, he didn’t make the correlation. I think because he thought that a music trigger was something unrelated to the other triggers that I mentioned to him. It seems that only two members of my family (besides myself) experience it. They, along with my husband, only have one type of trigger, wheres I am triggered by almost everything since discovering ASMR videos. There are a few exceptions. (update: it turns out that my husband was right about his sensation being different – apparently he and my sister both experience music frisson, but not ASMR. This would also explain why they are triggered by more complex music than my simple percussion-melody triggers – I do not experience frisson. It is possible for people to experience both, however)
Having a sensory processing disorder, I am sensitive to just about every olfactory, auditory, and visual stimuli there is. This goes both ways. the sensation can pleasurable, but also painful. Physically painful. I like taping, but if someone slides their nails in a particular direction on an object (not making a sound though), my teeth and face hurt. Same if someone slides a sticky object like a lint roller on a dry surface, even if only for a second. Sometimes i don’t know what will affect me negatively ahead of time and I have been unexpectedly offended by a few ASMR videos.
Although it seems like ASMR is fairly common considering how popular it is on youtube, I am curious to know how common it really is. I wonder if everyone is capable of experiencing it if they train the ability. For those who have it, I wonder if they are more likely to have only a few triggers, or many. Also, I am especially curious if there is any correlation between sensory processing disorder and the quality of the ASMR experience.
I am looking forward to more scientific research!