Step aside, Tide Pod Challenge. A new trend is here. Don’t worry, this one is not poisonous. On the contrary, many people find it relaxing—an a little strange. As opposed to eating them, influencers are currently cutting Tide Pods up and driving over them in order to amuse their followers. Similarly, influencer Talisa Tossell built a fanbase by posting videos of herself biting into honeycombs, snapping Kit Kats, and eating marshmallows over a microphone. Cutting soap, mixing paint, and squishing slime also epitomize this trend—ASMR. ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, activates regions of the brain that are typically stimulated in response to soothing social behaviors—scientifically, these are called affiliative behaviors.
Whether you realize it or not, you most likely have experienced ASMR yourself. Sensations of fuzziness, sleepiness, calmness, and peacefulness are all reactions to ASMR stimuli.
You may think that you do not know what ASMR is; however, you have probably seen it on social media. Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are all constantly generating these stimuli in the form of videos, with the Instagram explore page being the most popular viewing point for WHS students. Instagram content creators like @talisa.tossell, @asmrjunky, @chynauniqueasmr, and @lifewithmak2005 have gained hundreds of thousands of followers as a result of successful ASMR accounts and are the front-runners within the Walpole High ASMR-watching community. Additionally, Snapchat has several public ASMR stories categorized under “Food Tingles,” “Oddly Satisfying,” and “Satisfy ASMR.”
“I've seen the ASMR Community on [Instagram] grow from just a handful of ASMRtists to well into the hundreds now,” the creator behind @asmrjunky said.
One of the many effects of ASMR is sleepiness, which is theorized to be a result of ASMR’s activation of endorphins that cause euphoria and tingling sensations—initiating relaxation and comfort. Another theory is that ASMR is linked to serotonin, which produces several mental health benefits: it induces sleep, decreases stress, improves mood, and elevates comfort. Also, oxytocin—a hormone produced in the hypothalamus—contributes to the common ASMR sensation of tingling by increasing the sensitivity of the endorphin receptors. Serotonin and oxytocin are released through the pituitary gland, which is a pea-sized organ at the brain’s base. The interaction between all of these neurotransmitters and hormones contributes to varying forms of synesthesia upon exposure to ASMR.
Graphic/ Bottle PR Agency, Source/ ASMR University
In response to an anonymous survey sent out to WHS students, 72.0% of pro-ASMR respondents categorized ASMR as “satisfying,” 73.9% of anti-ASMR respondents branded ASMR as either “creepy” or “strange.” 46.8% of survey respondents find that these ubiquitous videos are much less than sensational and likely enjoy ASMR as much as they enjoy the sound of nails on a chalkboard—yet another example of ASMR. One WHS student even referenced Vincent van Gogh’s severing his left ear in a rage and the sounds of the WHS cafeteria to encapsulate his or her feelings on the topic.
“Van Gogh had the right idea,” one anonymous respondent said. “If I wanted to hear strangers eat obscene amounts of food with the manners of a wild dog, I’d venture on down to the cafeteria.”
On the contrary, WHS students also shared that they believe ASMR will evolve into more than a fleeting pop culture fad.
“People who don’t actually like ASMR and only watch it because they think it’s weird or funny will forget about it, but people who actually enjoy it will continue to watch it,” sophomore Molly Mello said.
Grapic/ Jackie Hur, Source/ ASMR University
Despite its critics, ASMR has great potential as a relaxation technique. WHS’s occupational therapist, Lauren Love, discussed the ways in which she works with students to maximize their functional life skills. In order to help students identify their emotional state, from a sensory standpoint, Love designates four zones: the “green zone” indicates optimal function; the “yellow zone” indicates frustration, fidgetiness, or anxiety; the “blue zone” indicates sadness, boredom, or tiredness; and the “red zone” indicates that a student is feeling overly excited, out of control, or angry.
“I am not familiar with ASMR, but [based on its] description, it would be a beneficial tool for students who are in either the yellow or red zone. [Students could use it] to relax and gain "control" to focus and be ready to learn and, therefore, [ASMR] could be a technique used in Occupational Therapy,” Love said. “This program sounds like it would work nicely to help students with self-regulation.”
Some people respond to ASMR. Others do not. The reason being is unclear but may lie in our gene sequences. Additionally, those who practice mindfulness—the act of focusing one’s attention on the present moment—have reported stronger reactions to ASMR than those who do not.
“ASMR decreases stress, helps me fall asleep, and when I am listening to it, [it] is the only thing I am thinking about. It comforts me,” an anonymous WHS respondent said.
Now, some still may think that ASMR is all about slime videos; conversely, there is so much more to discover in the world of ASMR.
“I became interested in ASMR when I first saw a floral foam video pop up on my explore page on Instagram,” junior Rachel Stanton said. “An immediate spark went off and I began to find more videos interesting as well.”