What I’ve Learned

Whilst ASMR was something I was familiar with and particularly interested in when I started this project, I still set out to learn new things about the strange world of this phenomenon during my investigations.

The key thing that I discovered whilst creating this documentary is how niche of an area ASMR is, both in scientific research and in general. ASMR was only actually named as an actual ‘experience’ very recently, within the last decade or so, therefore we are still at a very early stage of understanding exactly what it is. Deeper questions like what causes it, who experiences it and why, and what benefits it could have in different fields are queries that are yet to have been asked. This discovery revealed itself as I conducted my interviews, and I realised no one could talk about ASMR in any factual or statistical context as that just doesn’t exist yet.

My interview with Sophie Hack was intended to show how ASMR has been used in ‘treatment’ for some mental health issues, like insomnia, and I believe the interview achieved that aim. Whilst I was aware that the effects of ASMR had been said to help people sleep, I wanted to see how far this went. Sophie showed me that there are many positives that could emerge for mental health, should the scientific research be carried out, in the way that many people use hypnotherapy and other similar therapies to treat various mental health issues. I also learned about the different varieties of triggers that individuals can experience, as Sophie told me her personal ones, and why those work for that individual, whilst also discovering how common it is that ASMR ‘users’ have their first experience in a classroom, as Sophie did.

Dr Emma Blakey was also a key interviewee, as one of the scientists undertaking one of the first studies into the ASMR phenomenon. Whilst the study was still undergoing peer assessment and being finalised for publication, so she could not talk about the official answers that her research had found, she still had an obvious in depth anecdotal knowledge of ASMR as a result of carrying out the research. Her study, as one of the first, is still a very preliminary look into ASMR, as we first aim to discover what it actually is before we can understand why it happens. Emma made me aware of the varying different kinds of triggers and why these might be applicable to certain people. She even told me about the more peculiar ones that she had heard of, such as someone squashing sweets. However she also told me about the difficulties she found with carrying out her studies. The fact that ASMR evidence is currently entirely anecdotal, it makes it very difficult to carry out an accurate study if you cannot gauge whether the participants in the study are actually experiencing ASMR, or just another similar feeling. You cannot experience what another person is feeling, therefore you are relying entirely on that person saying that they are experiencing ASMR tingles. She told me how important it will be for future scientific study to involve MRI scans to put a finger on exactly what is going on in the brain.

Finally, I spoke to Julie Young, the co-author of the first book about ASMR. Through her research for her book, she had spoken to so many different people that use or experience ASMR, so she had a huge anecdotal data base. She showed me how to explain ASMR in a way that could be understood by those who do not experience it, as she had to do that so often as she wrote her book, for family members and friends. She believes that more people experience ASMR than we realise, they just often try to overlook it or don’t have time to be aware of this as a legitimate effect happening to their bodies. She told me about her first experiences with it, and how common it is that a person first experiences the effect in the classroom at a young age. Between the ages of 5 and 9 is the most common time a person will experience it but, due to this being so young, it is often forgotten by the time a person has reached adulthood and will want to be aware of it. She believes more people need to talk about ASMR, to start the ball rolling on finding out exactly what is going on in the brain, and for more people to experience the benefits that ASMR can bring.

Overall, the primary thing that I discovered about ASMR is that more people need to talk about ASMR. Documentaries like this could be important for the community. We’re very early in the discovery of this new phenomenon, and if it has potential benefits for mental health, then it’s important that the research into what it is and why it happens continues.

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Laura Stone

ASMRtist Laura Stone goes by the alias MinxLaura123 on YouTube. Under this name you can find a variety of videos created specifically to trigger ASMR for the 30,000 people that are subscribed to her channel. Her videos range from role plays and hauls to collaborations and even live streams. Here’s a Q&A from my interview with the Essex based ASMR star:

Do you experience ASMR?
Yes I do, and I have done since I was a child. But it’s only in the last few years, before I started making videos, that I discovered it had a name.

What ‘triggers’ work for you?
I’ve got quite a few triggers, but in particular are make up and hair related videos and those with gentle voices.

 

“We have to keep talking about it – the more we talk about it the more people will understand”

 

How did you first discover that you experience ASMR?
When I was a little girl I would experience tingles and relaxation when my hair was brushed or when I watched my mum apply her makeup.

What are your favourite kind of videos to watch?
I mainly like to watch hair and makeup related videos, but all videos tend to have one of my triggers in them.

What do you use it for?
I struggle with sleeping and I suffer with anxiety so the videos really help me calm down and make me less anxious when I need it.

What made you start to make videos online?
I wanted to help other people in the way ASMR helps me. I want to help those worldwide with anxiety and insomnia.

What do your friends and family thing of your videos?
They do think it’s weird but overall they are very supportive of me and they even appear in my videos!

What are your favourite kind of videos to make?
I like making haircut role plays and make up roleplays, perhaps as they are my favourite to watch.

How can we change the negative stigma that can often come with ASMR?
We keep talking about it. The more people explain how and why it helps them the more people will understand.

How has the internet changed the world of ASMR?
You have any trigger at your fingertips now on videos on YouTube.

Practical Applications

Idiot’s Guide to ASMR author, Julie Young, discovered that ASMR was effectively already been used in medicine, simply under a different name. This lead to her intrigue in understanding how ASMR can be used to treat various ailments, mental or physical, and then onto writing her book to fully understand the phenomenon. She told me about the first time she realised some “hypnosis tapes” were making use of ASMR without physicians realising, and what difference this made to her understanding of it’s relaxing effects.

ASMR in Marketing

Some high profile companies have even started venturing into the world of ASMR. By using it’s pleasing effects to their benefit, they have reached out to an entirely new community of people and lead the way for major discovery of ASMR.

The first example of a companies marketing department discovering ASMR is KFC, who created a two minute long video on their YouTube channel meant to reach some popular ASMR triggers. The video features the Colonel speaking in a low voice, and whispering, while showing the viewer how to fold pocket squares. He uses close microphones to highlight the sounds of the pocket square folding and being stroked. Of course, this wouldn’t be a KFC marketing ploy without some chicken, so the high-def sounds of the Colonel tucking into a big bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken also feature to trigger the more peculiar of ASMR triggers. Whilst this video is specifically tagged ASMR, and is therefore likely to only attract those specifically searching for ASMR videos, this extension into the online ASMR community is only positive for the marketing team and for the spread of ASMR.

Dove Chocolate, the equivalent of Galaxy Chocolate here in the UK, also created an ASMR video. The video is around two minutes long also, and features a girl eating a bar of their chocolate. This video does not make use of humour, as the KFC video does, and particularly focuses on the sounds intended to trigger the phenomenon. Research into the main triggers of ASMR has clearly been taken into account in the creation of this video, as the young girl crinkles and cracks the packets of the chocolate, and the sound is particularly high-def and focused on the tapping sounds of biting and unwrapping. However, the intimate nature of this video, as is usual for ASMR videos, has unnerved a lot of viewers who are not familiar with the phenomenon of ASMR.

Finally, Pepsi is the third major company to experiment with ASMR sounds. Though this was in much more of a minor capacity to Dove and KFC, the fizzy soda company used high-def audio to their advantage by posting a short video on the social media platform, Instagram. The video focuses on the fizzing sounds created by their cola drink, with a high definition microphone put in the neck of the bottle to capture the popping sounds. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a well known trigger for ASMR, the intimate nature of the recording is definitely a homage to ASMR and is definitely intended to mimic the effect created by similar ASMR sounds like tapping. The company also included the hashtag “#ASMR” in the caption of the video. When such a big company addresses the phenomenon like this, it’s very positive for the online community and hopefully extends the positive effects of ASMR to those who may never have been aware of it!

Survey

I created a survey to gauge what existing knowledge people have about ASMR, so I can further understand what they don’t know and what they should know.

I’m hoping by learning where the gaps in knowledge are, I can improve the content of my documentary to what the audience are actually interested in!

This survey will also aid my research into ASMR, as I can further understand what triggers those who experience it and how they would describe it themselves.

My survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/TSXTXQM