When I was a kid, I remember sitting in my grandparents’ living room looking at the Sunday comics with my cousin, and listening to how she would whisper-read each line to herself. The sound of her hushed murmuring gave my scalp this intense tingle, like all my hair was standing ever so slightly on end. It was weirdly relaxing, after I got over the minor annoyance of hearing someone somewhat laboriously work their way through a Peanuts joke out loud.
Since then, I’ve noticed I get that bizarre head-buzzy feeling from several different sounds. For instance: whispery voices, the muffled page-turning sound of books in a library, the sound of someone breathing near a microphone (but it has to be a certain kind of breathing, because most mouthbreathing is just flat-out unpleasant).
So today I was sifting through my various Google News categories, looking for article fodder, and I happened to notice the following title: “Does this video make your head tingle?” I clicked through to read the post, and found that it was talking about a specific YouTube video with nearly 5 million views. A YouTube video of a woman whispering, blowing, and making a variety of noises specifically intended for — and I quote — “relaxation, entertainment, and ASMR/tingles/chills inducing purposes only.”
Here’s the clip:
ASMR, I learned, stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It’s a “perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli.”
Related: remember this product? I actually had one once upon a time. It never worked for me, despite the ecstatic stock photo demonstrations.
Anyway, the fact that ASMR is an actual thing is mind-blowing enough to me, but get this — YouTube is positively roiling with heavily-played videos of “ASMR artists” who record themselves making sounds designed to trigger that head-tickling response.
Here’s one that is intended to “introduce you to the tingleworld” (!) with 30 different sounds:
Here’s a really strange role-play video, for those who like to imagine having someone whisper really really close to their face while getting a haircut (this would straight-up send me for the door):
And here’s a video for the “book lovers”:
Have you heard of rule 34? “If something exists, there is porn of it”? I don’t think these videos are technically PORN, but they seem maybe kind of in a similar category? Weird auditory porn? And now I feel so confused — like I am the biggest freakshow in the world, but also holy shit, there are millions of freaks just like me.