Free Videos Offer Stress Relief and Relaxation
While many of us might relax by reading a good book or working out at the gym, there's a large number of people who have turned to watching YouTube videos featuring some of the most ordinary — but occasionally strange — behaviors. (See also: Yoga Tricks to Help You Relax)
The videos seek to trigger a mysterious phenomenon known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or "ASMR." In short, it is a tingly sensation in the back of the head and down the neck. Those who claim to experience ASMR say it is triggered by a wide variety of things, from deliberate hand movements to soft voices or sounds, including fingernail tapping or hair brushing.
"For me, one of the biggest things is crinkles and crinkly bags," said Lindsay Ragone, a television editor in Canada who claims the sensation has helped her address a sleeping disorder. "I've watched hundreds and hundreds of these videos, if not thousands." (See also: Sleep Better With Calming Words)
Ragone is currently producing a film on the topic, "Braingasm," featuring interviews with people who produce these videos on YouTube. Another documentary, "Tingly Sensation," is also in production and has received more than $11,000 in funding through Kickstarter.
At this point, there is no scientific evidence that ASMR is a real thing, though at least one researcher at Dartmouth is exploring the phenomenon. And Ragone said there is some debate among YouTubers about which videos actually trigger ASMR and which offer a more general feeling of relaxation.
Either way, Ragone noted that some ASMR-themed YouTube channels feature tens of thousands of subscribers, with some individual videos notching millions of views. And the comments on YouTube are almost universally positive, with users praising video producers for helping them deal with everything from sleep problems to stress and even depression.
"Generally, the reason people get into these videos is that they come across them accidentally one night on YouTube and realize 'Oh my God, that's that thing I felt, and I didn't know how to describe it,'" Ragone said. "There are people who say, 'I didn't know this was a thing. I've had this my whole life.'"
In general, ASMR enthusiasts have remained something of an underground community, though the phenomenon was the subject of a story on NPR's This American Life earlier this year. (See also: Free Ways to Learn Something New)
Do you think this may be the key to your attempts at relaxation? Here's a look at five of the most popular ASMR producers on YouTube.
Known simply as "Maria" by fans, her channel is highlighted by ear-to-ear whispering using a binaural microphone. (You're supposed to use headphones to get the full effect.) The video below, which features a variety of supposed ASMR triggers, has a whopping 3.2 million views. Also check out the tingly towel-folding tutorial, which has 426,000 views.
"I know some people who say the sound of her voice can set them in a trance," Ragone said.
Known as "Ilse" to the ASMR community, this YouTuber has cranked out more than 200 videos featuring ear-to-ear whispering, nail tapping, and various role-playing scenes. Her most popular video below is more than an hour long and features 11 supposed ASMR triggers, including gum chewing, book scratching, and newspaper page flipping. It has 576,000 views.
One of the more prolific YouTubers, known as "Ally" to her fans. Her channel features about two new videos a week, in which she usually taps gently on an object while talking about it in a quiet and deliberate voice. (See the two-hour discussion of "Star Wars," featuring light tapping on a laser disc.)
Her role-playing videos are also popular. The video below has her acting the role of a space-travel agent from the future. It has 907,000 views.
HeatherFeather has more than 100 videos, usually featuring her facing the camera in some sort of acting role. She's played a hair stylist, a makeup artist, and even a tattoo consultant. Many of her videos experiment with various "trigger sounds" ranging from hair brushing to chewing gum.
The video below features a 3D microphone and a panning effect with a variety of supposedly "tingly" sounds. It is HeatherFeather's most popular video, with nearly 383,000 views.
See the video below of EphemeralRift discussing a post-apocalyptic world where sugar is unavailable except through a fictional "CandyMan." It is one of his most popular videos, with more than 285,000 views.
Are you an ASMR aficionado or "ASMRtist"? Have you tried (or would you try) ASMR to help you relax? Whisper your experience in comments!