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When you think of ASMR, what do you think of? Many think of a young woman on YouTube gently whispering into a camera and promising to deliver an amazing haircut or facial—over the internet.
ASMR is often poked fun at. At first, it might be easy for you to see why. But when you take into account the millions of views that some ASMR videos get, you might wonder if there's something that you're missing. Is there more to this phenomenon than a substantial YouTube audience watching young women pretend to wash their hair over a video?
What is ASMR?
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. This term was coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, who had experienced ASMR before it had a name. While several different terms were being discussed by the community at the time, they didn't catch on due to the fact that most of them had the word "orgasm" contained somewhere, therein, making ASMR sound like a sexual fetish—which for most people isn't the case at all.
So, then, what is it? There is some variation in experience from person to person, but for the most part, those who experience ASMR report feeling tingles that start in their scalp or spine that occur in response to exposure to certain sounds or sensations.
The specific sounds or sensations that elicit these tingles are known as "triggers." Common triggers include tapping on objects, whispering, scratching objects, mouth and eating sounds, and the trigger that serves as the reason for all the role-plays—personal attention. ASMR videos and podcasts can seem odd at first, but even people who do not experience the brain tingles have found rest and relaxation through them. Some have even drifted into slumber from exposing themselves to ASMR content.
How did the trend start?
Now that you know a little bit more about what ASMR is, you understandably might be wondering how such an odd phenomenon even takes off in the first place.
After Allen coined the acronym ASMR, she started spreading the name. She created an ASMR Facebook community and persistently contacted Wikipedia to ensure that the organization kept the ASMR page, which Wikipedia consistently claimed didn't meet its guidelines. Luckily, her persistence paid off, as today Wikipedia has quite a lengthy page on ASMR and the trend is as popular as ever.
Even before there was a name for it, people were posting ASMR content on YouTube. However, the content was difficult to find. Naming a video something along the lines of "tapping" or "whispering" easily gets lost in the flood of YouTube videos that pop up every day.
Everything changed once ASMR had an official name. YouTubers that created ASMR content (affectionately known as ASMRtists) now had something that they could label their videos with to make it easier for the ASMR community to access.
About two years after the name ASMR caught on in the community, the trend started to be noticed by the general public. News outlets began reporting on it, and people outside of the community became aware of it. The ASMR trend began to grow and expand.
Why is it still popular today?
Even though this trend has been popular for years, it is showing no signs of dying out anytime soon. Why is ASMR still so popular?
For one, there is still a demand for new content and new triggers. People who experience ASMR report becoming "trigger immune" after being exposed to a certain sound repeatedly. So in order to achieve the feeling, they find themselves needing to seek out different types of ASMR content.
Secondly, ASMR is not a very hard thing for an aspiring ASMRtist to begin doing. While some of the most popular have gained enough popularity—and ad revenue—to be able to afford high-quality equipment, all it really takes is a person, a camera, and an internet connection to get started.
Now that you understand a little bit more about the history of ASMR and what it is, maybe you'll give it a chance with fresh eyes—or more accurately, fresh ears. And who knows, maybe you'll become an ASMRtist someday too.