Students use ASMR to relieve stress and make money

Taylor Biddle, Business Manager

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A new trend is surging through Perry Meridian as students find a new way to reduce the pressures of school.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, is all the craze in pop culture and growing rapidly among Perry students.

This phenomenon, popular among teens, characterizes the pleasurable tingling sensation that some may experience in response to stimulating sounds or actions.

ASMR began with a thread posted on StudyHealth.com in 2007 titled “Weird sensation feels good” and immediately took off, receiving over 300 replies.

In 2010, Jennifer Allen, who has actively participated in the ASMR community since the 2007 blog post, officially coined the term, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and founded the first community group of supporters.

This group has now reached over 59,000  followers and is considered the largest Facebook community for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

The community specifically thrives through YouTube, where anyone can post videos of ASMR, and the most popular ones have reached millions of views.

ASMR is divided into two types: physical and visual. These distinctions have a wide range of actions and sounds that stimulate the brain and create a tingling sensation that serves as  a stress reducer, sleep aid and anxiety reliever.

 

Physical ASMR Types

Physical practices of ASMR are most popular among “netizens,” or those who are actively involved in online communities. These practices include but are not limited to nail tapping, hair play, slime, whispering, and gentle touch.

Those  who are familiar with professional artist and painter Bob Ross have unknowingly experienced ASMR, as well. The intention of the popular late 1980s television show was not meant to be for relaxation purposes. However, the artist’s soft speaking and tapping sounds created from the brush hitting the easel created the same  sensation as with other forms known today.

Another favored practice is eating.

“It’s just satisfying,” sophomore Lal Tluang says.

YouTubers and other ASMR video and audio creators choose a variety of foods that are “crunchy” and can easily be heard by microphone. Candied fruit, ice cubes, and other snacks are popular to use.

Many YouTubers, such as Sassitube, primarily choose raw honeycomb, sea grapes, and aloe vera due to the satisfying crunch with each bite.

Mukbang is a Korean trend that involves audio-visual broadcasting where the host eats a large amount of food while interacting with the audience, often through online chat rooms. Mukbang translates to “eat broadcast” and became popular in the 2010s in South Korea.

“I watch a lot of Mukbangs, and the types of Mukbangs are seafood boils because there’s a variety of food,” senior Sung Tin Par says. “It’s really satisfying.”

 

Visual ASMR Types

While visual ASMR is not nearly as prominent as the physical, there are several actions that are aesthetically pleasing. Soap carving, for example, has gained a lot of recognition.

Light tracing, face brushing and hand movements are other common types that are used. The slow hand motions allow the viewer to relax, reducing stress and anxiety levels while simply concentrating on the host’s actions.  

Paint is a favored visual among many ASMR followers, like sophomore Krissy Brzycki. Brzycki occasionally spends her free time watching popular visuals on YouTube and Instagram posts.

“I like the visuals a lot,” she says “It helps me relax.”

Kinetic Sand is often times used as both a physical and visual trigger. The host can cut the sand much like soap carving which evokes a sense of satisfaction from the audience.

“I like how everything is just so smooth and complete without any imperfections,” senior Dawttiniang Phuting says. “It lightens my stress and helps to keep my mind off things that could cause anxiety.”

 

The Brain

ASMR is still largely unexplainable, and only a few specialists and organizations around the world are researching this.

Reactions to ASMR vary with certain triggers, and some people even experience a negative reaction, making research a difficult process.

Steven Novella, a clinical neurologist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine, proposed a scientific reasoning behind the phenomenon.

“Perhaps ASMR is a type of seizure,” Novella says. “Seizures can sometimes be pleasurable, and can be triggered by these sorts of things”

Novella also suggests that it “could just be a way of activating the pleasure response.” He states that vertebrate brains are hardwired to register pleasure and pain.

Dr. Mark Winwood, the director of psychological services for AXA PPP healthcare based in the United Kingdom, offers a different approach.

Winwood links the gentle sounds and whispering to parent and infant bonding, involving vocal tones and focused attention.

He states that it “can help to create a sense of trust, closeness, and emotional security through the release of certain hormones.”

During stressful times, some students seek out resources and ask for help or perform activities such as listening to music or exercise in order to distract themselves.

“Nothing is scientifically proven,” says social worker Tracey Kappel. However, she regards ASMR as a “coping mechanism, like music. It’s specific to each individual person.”

 

Turning ASMR Into a Business

As diverse as ASMR is, the industry is rapidly growing. YouTubers and Instagram accounts alike can earn money from the content they post.

According to Ema Sagner from npr.org, Karina Garcia, a YouTuber known as “Slime Queen,” earns approximately $200,000 per month for her slime videos.

While it is common for social media users to earn money by sponsorships and donations, the industry only expands from there. Instead of creating ASMR videos, some choose to make the products that are used.

Slime, for example, can be created at home. Often, these entrepreneurs are “as young as 10 or 11,” writes Sagner. “[They are] making thousands of dollars each month to put toward college or invest back into their slime business.”

Senior Feona Dabson’s 9-year-old sibling caught on to this trend early.

“She was able to make $30 in total but she made 30 to 40 slime product,” Dabson says, “but she could make slime with anything.”

In 2017, ASMR videos were predicted to have a 250 percent growth rate according to SmartAsset.com.

A prospect of future technology could preserve the growth of ASMR. Utilizing Virtual Reality mechanisms is predicted by some viewers and researchers in order to heighten the stimulation on human senses.

 

The Benefits

While ASMR is still a relative  mystery, many have experienced positive outcomes. Watching ASMR videos has a relaxing effect on viewers and has helped relieve stress and anxiety.

Therapists utilize stress balls and other items to allow patients to release built up tension. While it is not a long term solution, the actions remind the body to relax the muscles that often clench when one is anxious.

ASMR acts similarly, as the viewer focuses on a specific noise or action. However, it is important to note that not everyone experiences this tingling sensation. Some people only react to physical triggers or visual triggers while others have no reaction at all.

As many experiencers and specialists have validated, ASMR has shown signs of improvement among those with insomnia.

With additional research, scientists may be able to discover how sensitivity to the sensations develop and if it is possible to become more sensitive.

 

Misophonia

On the flip side, those who experience anger, irritation, or fear when hearing repetitive noises such as pencil tapping or water dripping may have symptoms of misophonia. In simple terms, misophonia is the “hatred of sound.”

This condition occurs when one has an abnormally strong and negative reaction to everyday noises such as people chewing or small repetitive motions like foot tapping.

ASMR categorizes the sensational feeling one experiences through triggers while misophonia is considered to be a neurological disorder, which classifies the unfavorable perception that comes from basic human actions.  

Common emotional reactions that one might experience if they have misophonia is extreme annoyance, anger or stress. Physically, one might endure tense muscles, increased heart rate and pressure in parts of the body.

Being misophonic, however, does not mean one cannot experience ASMR. ASMR covers a large spectrum of triggers.

Senior Madison Carlson, who enjoys soap carving videos, strongly dislikes ASMR triggers involving food. As she states, “Lip smacking is one of my pet peeves.”

Recent studies have been conducted to understand the correlation between the two. Agnieszka Janik McErlean and Michael J. Banissy conducted a research in August of 2018 to determine whether or not ASMR has caused an increase in misophonia.

“It has been suggested that misophonia and ASMR might represent two ends of the same spectrum of sound sensitivity,”  claims McErlean and Banissy.