ASMR videos make some students relax, others cringe

Students divided over trend that gives “goosebumps on your brain”


Screenshot courtesy Kiera Jevtich.

In a screenshot from her own video, senior Kiera Jevtich taps her nails on a soda can as part of an ASMR video. Jevtich makes ASMR videos and posts them on Instagram.

By Aditi Gujaran

The crisp crunch of potato chips, the soft crackling from a knife cutting through sand and even the subtle sound of a quiet voice whispering into a microphone: to some, autonomous sensory meridian response videos—commonly referred to as ASMR videos—are quick stress relievers. To others, they’re comedic or even cringe-worthy.  

The videos often involve soft whispering or simple sounds which, for some, create a distinctive, calming, physical sensation; what’s often misunderstood is that ASMR describes this sensation, not the videos themselves.

“It’s like showers of sparkles,” Maria said in a Washington Post interview, She has owned the ASMR YouTube channel GentleWhispering since 2009. “It’s like warm sand being poured all over you, trickling over your head and down into your shoulders. It’s like goosebumps on your brain.”

But for some, watching people crunch on soppy pickles upclose on camera or pretending to be a dentist about to drill a cavity is too awkward or gross to find relaxing, sophomore Chloe Lesser said.

“I have no idea how ASMR is actually supposed to make me feel, so I automatically take it the wrong way,” Lesser said. “It doesn’t feel good to watch. It makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Though the videos elicit different reactions, ASMR videos have skyrocketed in popularity; searches for it doubled from June 2016 to June 2018, Google data shows. Maria now has over 1.5 million subscribers. In her most popular video, Maria gently taps on the microphone and whispers supportive words to viewers; it has been viewed over 10.9 million times.

Some students are in on the trend, creating their own ASMR videos or watching YouTubers eat honeycomb or tap wood with long fingernails to destress before a test.

In ASMR, there might be something that I don’t like but my friends like,” said senior Kiera Jevtich, who makes her own ASMR videos. “ASMR has so many different topics, so everyone can find something that they like. And when you do find that one thing that you like, it’s the best because it’s so relaxing.”

Researchers found that people who experience ASMR frequently have increased excitement and calmness levels and decreased stress levels, a 2016 University of Sheffield study found.

This is because ASMR videos distract viewers from everyday worries, psychology professor Jonathan Flombaum said. Flombaum works at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and teaches an Introduction to Cognitive Psychology course at Johns Hopkins University.

“My quick intuition is that the sounds are easy to pay attention to; they are not too loud or complicated,” Flombaum said. “They change, but slowly, so they kind of make it easy to focus your mind on them and ignore your thoughts. Everyone needs a break.”

Senior Gracie Horn thinks the videos are “uncomfortable,” but has learned to enjoy them. When Horn watched YouTube creator Mackenzie Logan’s video of herself making a cherry sundae, which has been viewed over 129,000 times, she couldn’t stop laughing as Logan placed cherries on the ice cream with unmatched concentration.

“I never thought I would be in a situation where I sit down and watch people eat,” Horn said. “I clicked on it thinking it was absurd and ended the video thinking it was funny. I tell people I listen and they’re like, ‘I would never want anybody to know I listen to ASMR.’ But, I don’t think there’s a problem to listen to it. People shouldn’t have to feel ashamed.”

Junior Adrian Knappertz found the trend in 2016; they often crumble chips before eating or listen to white noise before sleeping. Knappertz’ favorite videos are where ASMR creators cut magnetic sand, which has a soft crackling noise, as a stress reliever.

“It’s so simple. It helps me zone out. Everything else around you is so noisy, but when you listen to the video, it’s just that sound,” Knappertz said. “It blocks everything else out.”