While scrolling on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, many social media come across strange "sensory" videos that often involve a microphone, food and soothing voices. The calming, tingly effect some people experience while watching them is called autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR.
ASMR videos became a trend in 2019 and continue to be popular among people today for their relaxing sounds and satisfying visuals. The "tingling sensation" ASMR-watchers feel is a response from auditory and visual triggers.
For people like Michigan State University psychology senior Jane Carter, ASMR can be used to help insomnia and restlessness.
Carter, who found ASMR through Instagram, said she uses it as a coping tool to help her feel peaceful.
"I know that it's really common for others (to use ASMR), and I like to listen to it (because) it makes me sleepy and calm," Carter said.
When going through a particularly stressful day or study session, Carter said, nonverbal ASMR is instrumental in tuning out her surroundings and focusing on tasks at hand. She added that tapping and spraying sounds, specifically, are soothing for her.
Similarly, psychology senior Zahra Chambers said she uses ASMR to lessen her anxiety. Chambers said sensory stimulation videos that involve whispering, page turning and typing help draw her into the present.
With ASMR videos showcasing a multitude of objects, sounds and foods, Chambers said that just watching creative displays and listening to unique sounds can cheer her up, improving her mental health.
“I know some people do like role plays or like you’re at the dentist and things like that," Chambers said. "Some people are like, ‘okay this is kind of weird like why am I watching this?’”
While gentle, slow audios calm Carter down, she said the highly popular, food-chewing ASMR videos are too much for her.
“I don’t really like the eating videos, I find those really gross, but you know … everyone has their own opinion,” she said.
Carter said students struggling with their mental health should check out ASMR for some relief. She said the short, free videos across most social media platforms make ASMR an accessible mental health tool option.
Chambers said creating ASMR content yourself could be relaxing, as well.
“(ASMR) has become so popular because it’s a good way to make money, like making ASMR on YouTube or TikTok,” Chamber said.
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