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Welcome to the ASMR World!

“What will I do this Christmas?” Have you ever thought about this long before Christmas? Some people feel distracted or imagine the sparkling lights of the Christmas trees when they listen to carols. These days, we can easily find contents like the buzz of the streets and calm carols being sung during the holiday season on YouTube. Like this, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) has become mainstream content, and the Sungkyun Times (SKT) would now like to introduce the concept, types, popularity factors, and precautions of ASMR.

What Is ASMR?

Definition of ASMR

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) refers to sensory experiences such as psychological stability or pleasure caused by stimulation of the brain. The word “ASMR” is not a medical term, but is a neologism that appeared in the 2010s. Although the term has been newly created, the concept of indescribable and pleasant stimulation has existed for a long time. As a concept similar to ASMR, there are “satisfying videos”, which mainly use visual stimuli. For example, in Toy Story 2, there is a scene where the puppet master skillfully repairs a shabby Woody without a single error, and this video has received 5.45 million views on YouTube. As such, satisfying videos refer to videos that make people lose track of time by watching them. Adding auditory stimulation to these videos becomes ASMR, and it can maximize comfort. The pleasant sensation through ASMR is referred to as “tingles”, and the stimuli that make us feel “tingles” are called “triggers”. Triggers vary vastly because all people have different preferences for stimuli. Therefore, various types of ASMR have been created to make it possible to feel various triggers.

Trigger of ASMR (thesun.co.uk)

Various Types of ASMR

As ASMR has become more popular, countless types of ASMR videos have been created. The most basic triggers are tapping, typically tapping nails onto surfaces such as plastic or wood, whispering, and mouth sounds. In addition, there is personal attention role-play that combines basic triggers like tapping and role-play. Initially, most of the role-play ASMR contents made easy sounds such as ear cleaning, massages, or haircuts. But now, it has developed into various genres, such as medieval role-play, science fiction, and fantasy. In addition to the sounds that can be heard in daily life, there is also imaginary circumstances ASMR with sounds that listeners cannot commonly hear. These videos make listeners feel as if they are in a great hall or house of Hogwarts, the places of the Harry Potter series, as they are composed of sounds similar to the fireplace or the turning of pages.

ASMR in the Great Hall of Hogwarts (ASMR Soupe YouTube)

Besides this, there is mukbang ASMR which includes activities such as eating slowly with comfortable and pleasant sounds or eating unusual foods that can make nice sounds, like sea grapes or honeycomb. Also, pet eating ASMR is gaining popularity.

ASMR of Tortoise Eating (Animal ASMR YouTube)

Why Do People Seek ASMR?

Comfort from Sounds

In contemporary society, there are many intense stimuli such as news, videos, and food. Regarding this, writer Kim Ran-do, famous for his essay Youth, It’s Painful, also referred to modern society as a “super-sensational society”. Stimulating contents can earn people’s reactions, but they can make people exhausted. Accordingly, people seek trivial and cozy content even if they are bland. Until now, most of the therapeutic contents used visual materials, so ASMR content that mainly uses auditory stimuli can be considered as a new trend. In addition, a great advantage of ASMR is that it focuses only on sound, and people do not need to watch a bright screen before falling into sleep. According to research done by mobile devices analyst App Annie in 2020, the average time of Koreans using smartphones was three hours and 40 minutes per day, which is the major cause of dry eyes. Therefore, ASMR, which does not stimulate the eyes, can be “healing” for modern people with chronic eye fatigue. Also, as people can listen to ASMR with earphones, people can chill out anywhere in their daily lives. Recently, more and more people feel tired of sound stimuli in real life, so earphones with noise canceling that block surrounding noise and allow a person to focus on the more delicate sounds of ASMR have also become popular.

ASMR World Created by Association

Sound contains many things, and people recall past experiences or situations through sound. Therefore, ASMR creators not only give stimuli by repeatedly creating the tingly sounds but also stimulate people’s imaginations through hearing. In role-play ASMR, they present explanations about simulations with proper sounds, so listeners feel as if they are in that situation. The realistic sound that makes people feel that they are in their comfortable place gives vicarious satisfaction to listeners, so it can be considered a personalized relaxation for stressed-out modern people. And there is a new concept of role-play ASMR, which is different from other situations, such as the sounds of being at a spa or someone doing their makeup. The most representative example of this would be the ASMR contents of Korean comedian Kang Yu-mi. She represented the most realistic situations such as role-play of an employee of small businesses and MBTI. Aside from these, imaginary circumstances ASMR actualizes imagination. After setting imaginary places or background of novels or movies, it puts suitable sounds for each place. Therefore, people who like those novels or movies can imagine that they are sleeping, studying, or working in the virtual space. It also comes as a pleasure for the fans of the works, and even if listeners are not fans, they can get help with satisfaction and rest through mysterious sounds that are hard to hear in daily life.

Realistic Role-play ASMR (Yumi Kang YouTube)

Precautions for Enjoying ASMR

Auditory Pornography Masquerading as ASMR

As the term “ASMR” became more popular, offending videos using ASMR titles appeared. Videos that spoil the nature of ASMR by using sexual elements and deceiving viewers were created. Some cases appeal sexually by exposing certain parts of the body or whispering indecently. In addition, they set up the concept of role-play as sexual and auditory pornography, not ASMR. As videos prevailing under the title of ASMR can offend viewers who want to watch normal ASMR, sanctions are needed. Moreover, adult viewers of YouTube who have already gone through age confirmation can watch adult videos without any bumps, so the cautions of phishing videos are needed. To solve this problem, promoting recognition of ASMR is necessary. Platforms that distribute content, especially YouTube, should recognize that pornography can be generated through ASMR. They should also monitor it and implement restraints such as youth blocking action for pornographic ASMR. Furthermore, before regulating adolescents, strict controls on stimulating thumbnails and titles of offending videos will be necessary. In addition, viewers should look for videos that can truly give them relaxation.

People Being Insensible to Stimuli

Another problem with ASMR is that people can gradually depend on ASMR. Even people who prefer soft stimuli look for fresh and strong stimuli when they become insensible by stimulation. Repeatedly searching for new ASMR videos just before going to sleep creates an ironic situation that causes a waste of time and mental distress. Moreover, repeated use of earphones for better listening may also cause ear problems. Noise-induced hearing loss, in which hair cells are damaged, is caused by continuous noise exposure. Therefore, falling asleep with earphones on can be dangerous, and viewers should try to find a wise way to listen and sleep deeply. First of all, it is important to remember that ASMR is not essential for sleep but should perhaps only be listened to when necessary. In addition, it is better to use a headset that is farther from the eardrum than earphones so that stimulus towards auditory nerves becomes less; still, as the headset is also stimulating anyway, it is recommended not to use auditory devices when you sleep.

Television, which stimulates both vision and hearing, is often regarded as the upper compatibility of radio, and thus, radio remains the legacy of the old days. Nevertheless, why doesn’t the radio disappear? Helen Keller, who was blind and had hearing loss, said, “Blindness distinguishes us from things, but deafness distinguishes us from people.” Therefore, the reason why radio remains to this day would be that hearing is the most important sense for humans. Therefore, you can look forward to how ASMR, which has been developed into various forms by stimulating hearing, will entertain us in the future.

정민주  sophiejmj@g.skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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