Some people feel an unusual tingle in their brain after watching someone whisper in a YouTube video. Hugh Manon, professor of screen studies and chair of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, and Shuo Niu, professor of computer science, dig into the social media phenomenon that is ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response.
ASMR videos have racked up millions of views, and rank among the top five YouTube searches globally and in the U.S. Most often, creators record themselves whispering into a microphone or using motifs of touching and tasting to create an intimate online experience. Manon and Niu have studied thousands of ASMR videos for a co-authored paper examining the trend as they try to better understand the culture and community.
“ASMRtists can’t reach through the screen and tickle you with a feather, but they can reach through the microphone and tickle you with a whisper by virtue of the fact that everything’s being amplified. That’s something I think is really underappreciated,” Manon says.
These videos are more than just entertainment for some viewers. Researchers are finding that the calm and quiet of AMSR can help ease anxiety.
“We do see a lot of videos created for people with insomnia or sleeping issues,” Niu says. “And I do see comments that say, ‘Hey, this helped me fall asleep.’”
Challenge. Change. is produced by Melissa Hanson and Andrew Hart for Clark University. Find other episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.