“Dot, dot, line, line, spiders crawling up your spine…” Do you remember this game? Now, do you remember feeling the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? This is what people call ASMR. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, in layman’s terms, is the tingly feeling you get when presented with a stimulus.
You know how, in some novels, the author describes someone whispering as sending chills up the spine? That’s ASMR, and the earliest record of such an event is found in Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway.” YouTuber Safiya Nygaard also does a very good job at tracing its history back to the internet forum “SteadyHealth” in 2009.
The earliest forms of ASMR anyone would’ve felt naturally would be with regular events like brushing your hair, getting a haircut, painting in class, or most commonly — whispering. Bob Ross’s landscapes subconsciously did the job for many who could not put a finger on it. His aesthetically pleasing paintings combined with his baritone voice made him an accidental pioneer of ASMR.
So, if ASMR has been around for a while, why did it just blow up recently?
The idea of someone whispering into your ears through a screen initially didn’t sit well with a lot of people. Some even considered it to be lewd and repulsive. But with a growing number of internet users seeking a quick fix, ASMR grew in popularity. Especially on YouTube, where, when some videos started generating traction, there was an emergence of many ASMRtists who gained millions of subscribers within no time. With the same fame, however, came a lot of drawbacks. YouTube found itself in flux when children started practicing ASMR on the platform, eventually resulting in the demonetization of these fairly innocent, clickbaity videos.
The community has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Celebrities like Cardi B, Eva Longoria, and Gigi Hadid have tried it for a segment on W Magazine’s channel. In 2019, Zoe Kravitz did a segment of ASMR in the mountains for a Super Bowl commercial. So, ASMR is getting big and the only way to go is up. Will ASMR stand the test of fads, or will it, like those tacky life hack videos, fade away into nothingness? Guess, we’ll have to wait, watch and relax.
If you’re one of those who are new to ASMR and are open to exploring the genre then you should watch videos by Gibi, ASMR Darling, WhispersRed, and Gentle Whispering. If those don’t do the trick, how about my personal favorite, the Virtual Barber, which is apparently older than ASMR itself.