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Why ASMR videos are a whole different kind of weird

Can ASMR be described as a case of the tingles?   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/ iStock

Rule No. 34 of the Internet, literally the only accurate one of all the absurd Internet rules floating around, states: “If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.” So it came as no surprise to learn of the existence of ASMR porn. I first came across ASMR — autonomous sensory meridian response — a couple of years ago. Assuming it was one of those weird Internet micro-trends (like, say, planking), I didn’t bother much; I thought it’d go away. Until last week, when I decided to check it out because it still seems to be hovering around. And I had to physically turn away.

I chanced upon a video by a YouTuber/ Instagrammer named Eve Donnelly, in which she’s eating, literally, shards of glass. She’s chomping at them one after another with great relish; smiling at the camera. Each crunch, each shattering of glass by teeth into smaller fragments, echoes in HD quality. Then her mouth fills up with what appears to be blood, so she spits it out on her white top. Just typing this out is making me grimace. Other videos show her munching on raw meat, or roses, or make-up. Even the one of her eating rocks — rocks — seems tepid compared to the glass video.

A case of the tingles

Donnelly is an anti-artist in the ASMR world. The rest of it isn’t as horrifying, though it remains a whole different kind of weird. To belatedly explain ASMR, it’s a case of the tingles. That shivering sensation you get at the back of your neck, when the hair slowly rises up. It’s triggered, apparently, by visual or auditory stimuli. A common example used to describe the feeling is when a loved one ruffles your hair affectionately. That feeling of elation, that’s ASMR.

YouTube is filled with artists making these videos — I noticed billions and billions of views (added up), and entire sub-genres dedicated to the form. Like, for example, a very important page called Gentle Whispering. A woman, Maria, talks softly... very, very softly... in hushed whispers... like a tantric. There’s a series of videos titled Oddly Satisfying, which has a strong ASMR element, and they’re spectacular to watch. Another genre is slime-related ASMR. Videos of people manipulating slimy, slippery, gooey, gelatinous objects. There’s more: the sound of hair being cut. Of licking (licking!). Water being poured. My favourite, demonstrated in a video of sleep triggers by an ASMR artist who runs a YouTube page called ASMR Darling, is of tape — like scotch-tape or sellotape. She pulls the tape from the roll patiently, making that lovely pffffftttrrrrffffff sound.

Eating sounds

And then came the eating. Before we continue, a quick confession: I was recently (self)diagnosed with a disorder called misophonia. Everyone has it, I think. It’s extreme negative reactions to certain sounds — like nails on a chalkboard or metal scratching against metal. And one of my triggers just happens to be the sound of people chewing food loudly.

So imagine my joy when I discovered a whole world of ASMR videos dedicated only to the art of eating different foods. Slurping on tea loudly, or eating noodles, or really sticky dessert. And everyone’s chewing with their mouths wide open. There’s the harder stuff: videos of people eating even louder foods, crunching, chomping, smacking, gnawing, munching, gulping. (Donnelly, our glass-eating 17-year-old hero, does videos that invert this format.) And they have millions of views, despite all the hate in the comments.

I felt great resistance when I first began to explore ASMR. It felt bizarre and kooky. But the further I dug in, the more I understood, especially when I heard the tape being pulled out. The people creating these videos are, in a truly postmodern sense, artists like any other. And the ones watching, and listening, are simply chasing the same unattainable high we all are. And what’s wrong with that?

The author and freelance culture writer from New Delhi wishes he’d studied engineering instead.

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Printable version | Jan 11, 2022 6:44:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/column-why-asmr-is-a-whole-different-kind-of-weird/article28294063.ece

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