Film & Culture

The Big Business of Little Voices – ASMR Is The Internet’s Latest Psychological Fad

Have you ever stumbled across a seemingly strange video of someone whispering sweet nothings to their webcam, and wondered what you’ve unearthed? Welcome to the world of ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response,) a niche genre of YouTube videos many people watch to help them relax, fall asleep and even use as therapy for depression. While these videos may seem like just another strange fad, they’re actually a booming business.

Technically, ASMR is a term used to describe the pleasing tingling sensation people get from watching something stimulating or partaking in simple activities that involve personal attention. These videos typically involve someone whispering while they do mundane activities like repeatedly tapping a bottle or eating a pickle. It’s believed that the combination of a whispering voice mixed with repetitive sounds can activate triggers in the brain that can help you fall asleep.

While some people may find these activities to be extremely cringe-inducing, others feel ASMR techniques create a sense of intimacy and relaxation. The latest video trend on YouTube may be perceived as a gimmick, but many ASMR video creators have over a million subscribers. ASMR has also become quite profitable for content creators. YouTuber Gibi ASMR’s channel currently has over 1.2 million subscribers and over 300 million views with an estimated 50k in monthly revenue. It’s also one of the top trending search terms in 2018 according to Google Trends.



Experts believe that the growing popularity of ASMR videos is primarily due to their potential health benefits. People who watch ASMR videos say it helps reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. There’s even a trending ASMR subreddit littered with testimonies from people praising the benefits of watching ASMR videos when they feel stressed.

Just published research suggests that these testimonials are plausible. During a controlled experiment, people who watched ASMR videos reported feeling much calmer, and their heart rates slowed. The effects were similar to that found in mindfulness exercises which psychologists recommend, such as interventions in which patients are encouraged to accept emotions rather than suppress them. Survey research also suggests that the most common motivation for watching ASMR videos is for the mental health benefit of aiding sleep and reducing stress.

Despite the popularity of ASMR, the scientific community is only just beginning to recognize it as a genuine phenomenon to study. There is still much to learn about ASMR, but early findings suggest it could be a useful tool for people who experience it to reduce stress in the digital age. Time will tell whether ASMR can become a viable form of mental therapy and a sustainable business model for aspiring content creators, but it’s hard to argue with its growing popularity in the digital media landscape. Do you hear someone whispering right now? Don’t worry; it’s probably someone nearby watching a fake haircut ASMR video and experiencing some beneficial “brain tingles.”

Ready to master the emerging trends – like ASMR – that are redefining youth culture? Meet and learn from YouTube beauty star Kandee Johnson, Vice publisher Katherine Keating, and Girlboss founder Sophia Amoruso – this October at the WORLDZ Summit.


H/T The Conversation 

This article was originally published on The Conversation by Thomas Hostler