Opinion: Tippity Tapping Me to Sleep, How ASMR Keeps Me Sane

The author, Adrian senior Katherine Simpkins, lays in bed with headphones as her phone plays an ASMR video. Simpkins has a YouTube playlist consisting of her favorite ASMR videos that she listens to for sleep, studying and relaxation (Photo illustration by Bella Bakeman).

Considered a sensory phenomenon according to National Geographic and a possibly addictive feeling noted by Buzzfeed, autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is utilized in many different ways. For me, ASMR is simply a way to shut off the noise in my brain, calm the everyday issues and take myself into a safe sensory realm for the best sleep or study. 

But what exactly does that acronym mean, and why is it so satisfying?

You may have seen videos of people whispering close to their cameras or tapping on objects. Certain sounds are made to elicit a response from your brain and body, usually in the form of a tingling sensation that makes your hair rise.

That’s the sensation I experienced as a sophomore in high school when I fell asleep to a random video that auto-played on YouTube. In the days after, I dove deep into the world of ASMR even though I felt like a lost explorer in a jungle of triggers: Repetitive sounds or visuals, usually in a soft and whisper-like tone, created to provoke a psychological reaction. 

I had no idea which triggers did what; tapping, whispering, mouth sounds – each one seemed to unlock a different door in my mind, revealing new sensations and experiences. All I knew were the tingles I felt on my arms and the back of my neck – almost like goosebumps. 

However, like many things in our society, the use of ASMR has been fetishized. Creators have started making videos targeting this fetishization; you see this in video titles containing “ear-eating” and “mic-licking” triggers.  

That is not the ASMR I love or am arguing in favor of. 

The ASMR I love stems from some of my favorite creators: Telina ASMR, Nanou ASMR, synna asmr, tris j asmr and Sunset City ASMR.

It took me years to figure out that those were my favorite ASMRtists – a term coined by ASMR creators – and even now, I still find myself looking for more. 

When it comes to figuring out if ASMR is for you, you first need to ask yourself what you want from the experience. I know for me, fast-paced and aggressive triggers are not my vibe. My brain already runs a mile a minute, and I often find myself overwhelmed and distracted. Therefore, the ASMR I look for tends to be at a slower pace, focusing on personal attention and relaxation so that eventually my brain and body re-center. 

Depending on the sound or visual produced, differing responses occur. For example, whispering words and brushing a mic with a makeup brush can cause you to feel tingles on the back of your neck, whereas tapping or mouth sounds can create a sensation on your head or arms.

Old-school ASMR triggers like tapping, mouth sounds, hand-fluttering and mic brushing all stem from the first surge of videos back in 2009. But as the community expanded and platforms like YouTube and TikTok opened up, the triggers became more intricate and elaborate.

Incorporating more triggers into a video – multifaceted ones – increases viewership and popularity. For example, TikTok and YouTube content creator ASMRnoa is known as the creator of a popular ASMR trigger titled “energy rain.” This trigger combines multiple other sounds and visuals to create the ultimate experience for a viewer, making the ASMR more intense.

One thing about me though is that I’m usually not a fan of ASMRtists who have huge fan bases. This is because I’ve noticed a switch from authentic and genuine ASMR production to a commodified, watered-down version of their work. 

The larger the fan base, the less interested I am.

Although, I’m aware that I have most likely desensitized myself – because with great ASMR comes great responsibility. 

After years of indulging in these videos, I’ve built up a bit of a tolerance, requiring me to manage my ASMR intake carefully. I balance it with other relaxation methods such as the Calm app or a sleep playlist I created on Apple Music three years ago; gifts that just keep on giving.

Even with my years of viewership, it took until this year for me to truly realize how to get the most out of watching an ASMR video. I had to experiment with many videos and triggers before understanding what gave me the most relaxing feeling, but I wasn’t always willing to watch, or in this case, feel.  

For a long time, I fought with the stigmatization of ASMR. Having the world view it as weird or even sexual made me feel weird, too. Even after weeks of listening to videos in high school and realizing the positive effect it was having on me, I found it hard to let go of the judgment surrounding ASMR. But through the years, I’ve let my guard down and have become a full-fledged fan; still listening six years later.

I guess you could say I didn’t choose the ASMR life; it chose me. 

So, to my fellow indulgers or curious creatures in the land of whispers and crinkles, embrace the weird, revel in the tingle and remember: ASMR is not just a trend or a passing phase. 

Rather, it’s a gateway to calmness in a world filled with chaos.

About Katherine Simpkins 24 Articles
Katherine Simpkins, aka "Kat", is a senior from Adrian, MI. She is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Educational Studies. Her passion for journalism started at an early age when she picked up her camera and started seeing life from a different perspective. In her free time, you can find Kat snuggled up next to her cat, Phoebe; named after the best "Friends" character. You can contact her at KCS11@albion.edu.

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