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.

Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 11.53.56 AM

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.

Comments

43 Responses to “Today I learned that I am a creepy whisper-tingler”

  1. Wendy on February 25th, 2014 1:17 pm

    this is the best one – helps me sleep
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_XBxR9-sYU

  2. Mariya on February 25th, 2014 1:22 pm

    I heard a story about this very thing on This American Life…you can find it here ( http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/491/tribes?act=2 ). Almost all This American Life stories are pretty great – even more so if you can relate

  3. Mel on February 25th, 2014 1:43 pm

    Shoot, I was going to post the URL for the This American Life episode too. You can’t go wrong with any TAL episode, really.

  4. Anonymous on February 25th, 2014 2:04 pm

    I must have the anti-tingler syndrome because I could only listen to exactly 47 seconds of the first video, said “Oh, please, no!” aloud and had to turn it off.

    OK, had to try it again==14 seconds for the second video and screamed Oh, god!!

    I wanted to like this sort of thing because I need all the help I can get in relaxing. (Bipolar with anxiety disorder.)

  5. Kelly on February 25th, 2014 2:21 pm

    I have a whole LIST of favorite people on YouTube. At night I tell my husband, “I am going to watch my weird videos now,” and while I was away this past weekend, he actually went and slept on the couch, because HE couldn’t sleep without MY laptop flickering next to him. So now I’ve gone and weirded us both up.

    MARRIAGE.

  6. Katharine on February 25th, 2014 2:29 pm

    I’m listening to that video (the first one), and it’s giving me very weird neurological responses.

    The less said the better, actually.

    I have very pleasant ASMR reactions to certain pieces of music, though. Like the inside of my head is all lit up with tingly light. I used to think everybody felt that when listening to the music they loved, and I was sad when I learned about ASMR and found out that wasn’t the case. Poor everybody else.

  7. Andrea on February 25th, 2014 2:36 pm

    The videos actually mildly annoyed me. And I have this very strong aversion to the noise of styrofoam rubbing against itself. That squeak? HELL. Burn me alive but don’t make me listen to styrofoam. My husband kindly opens boxes which involve styrofoam packing for me. *shudder* Just thinking about it makes my teeth hurt…

    I also get the spine/head shivers and tingles with certain pieces of music. Certain parts, actually, like just a few measures in a song will light me right up. Sometimes I will not have heard a song for years but when it comes on again the reaction is exactly the same.

  8. Maggie on February 25th, 2014 3:12 pm

    Once again the internet proves there is something for everyone. I don’t seem to have ASMR since these videos did nothing for me. However, I actively cringed thinking about my husband trying any of them since he suffers from misophonia and noises of that nature make him nuts. Cannot stand them. Was actually really glad when I found out he has an actual neurological condition that causes him to dislike a lot of sounds and it wasn’t that he was being kind of an ass ;-)

  9. Valerie on February 25th, 2014 3:25 pm

    So weird! Listening to these videos, I actually felt like I was being tickled and to the point of torture and was laughing hysterically (quietly, in my cube). So strange. I think the headphones intensify it too much for me.

  10. Meghan on February 25th, 2014 4:46 pm

    I totally get this feeling when certain events happen as well!!! I love being able to put a description to it!

  11. Amy K on February 25th, 2014 4:55 pm

    It’s weird having ASMR and misophonia, because most of the sounds in the first video caused my neck and upper back to go all tingly, but the woman’s moist, whistling mouth noises drove me into a rage. My ASMR reaction to the intro of Sunglasses At Night (the quickly alternating stereo part) is so strong if I’m listening to it on headphones that it sometimes brings on a bout of vertigo. And I’m with you, Andrea — Styrofoam makes the worst sound in the world. It nauseates me. (Of course, touching chalk, squeaky-clean glass, or microfiber also nauseates me. I think my brain has some issues.)

  12. Lawyerish on February 25th, 2014 6:25 pm

    I had never, ever heard of this phenomenon until Elizabeth (Princess Nebraska) mentioned it once and I was like, DUDE I HAVE THAT! For me, it has always been certain types of voices, like a certain timbre or vibration of voice, or sometimes accents, and I didn’t really know why I felt all soothed and sleepy and scalp-tingly over those kinds of sounds. It’s the same way I feel when someone plays with my hair. Lo, the Internet teaches us we are never alone.

    Strangely, the videos either don’t give me a response at all, or they make me feel kind of icked out from the mouth-sounds and breathing. So I guess I need to find someone to just play with my hair all the time.

  13. Andrea on February 25th, 2014 7:31 pm

    Amy K and others,

    Whoa I’m gonna have to look up misophonia. I grew up w lots of sensory and sound issues but it was the 80s so I was just a weirdo. Microfiber also freaks me out. Also acrylic yarn on a metal crochet hook so it squeaks…eeeeee….

    I avoid green beans because unless they’re canned, they make that squeak against my teeth and the meal is ruined! Anyone else? (I feel like I’ve met my tribe!)

  14. kendra! on February 25th, 2014 8:43 pm

    I can’t stop watching the first video.

    How does one become this when she grows up?

  15. Briana on February 25th, 2014 10:51 pm

    I must not have it b/c it just made me feel weird having the lady go on both sides of the camera so I could hear it in both ears. Also the sound of her smacking her lips made me angry.
    Definitely one of your weirder posts though. Keeping it fresh!

  16. Best Webinar System on February 25th, 2014 11:05 pm

    Best Webinar System…

    All & Sundry…

  17. AnEmilyB on February 26th, 2014 12:43 am

    I’m scared. Yeah, I don’t know. I think maybe just I’m more…visual?

  18. Jenn D on February 26th, 2014 5:37 am

    Very interesting. Some sounds make me positively insane with rage while others (like that first video) made me super relaxed and reduced my anxiety.

    As another person posted: I, too, am really affected by music. When I was younger, pre-kids, I would often lie down with my eyes closed with music playing and just feel like I was floating. It was pretty cool.

  19. Jenny on February 26th, 2014 7:03 am

    OMG!!! I knew exactly what sensation you were talking about in the first paragraph. I’ve experienced ASMR all my life. Usually I got it from watching my friends draw or color, or watching my mom wash dishes. I thought, there’s no way a YouTube video is gonna work. WRONG! I could not stop watching these! The whispering and tapping work best for me. I feel like a freak, but at least I’m not alone, LOL. These videos are my new fave thing.

  20. Shawna on February 26th, 2014 9:00 am

    I find that my hair stands on end when I’m watching movie previews sometimes and I always resolve to see those movies. I don’t know if it’s the sound, the visuals, or a combination of the two.

    I always just assumed that the people who put together those clips are just really, really good at their jobs, but maybe not everyone’s head tingles at good movie previews after all. Huh.

  21. Melanie on February 26th, 2014 9:00 am

    Ohhhh, misophonia…. I once had a long discussion with a group of friends about the sounds that drive us nuts – nails on a chalkboard, sandy feet on aluminum beach chairs, a knife scratching a dinner plate, and MY killer: when your teeth accidentally grit against each other while chewing. Out of that conversation came the deathless phrase, “The road to hell is paved with corduroy.”

    And yet I have ASMR, too. There’s a line in “The Belle of Amherst” – Emily Dickinson says, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” That’s kind of how it feels, most noticeably when a friend used to read Tarot cards for me.

  22. Jessica V. on February 26th, 2014 9:51 am

    THIS is one of the many reasons that I love the Internet – I found my people! I didn’t even know this was a “thing” until I read this post last night, and then fell into an hour-long YouTube wormhole of videos, trying to find the ones that best featured my triggers (visual and aural – as it turns out). I slept so well last night (although the cough medicine w/codeine might have had something to do with that)! We are all freaks together! :-)

  23. Amanda on February 26th, 2014 12:48 pm

    HOLY SHIT. I didn’t know this was a thing! I thought it was just a weird reaction that was probably not anything to anyone else.

    On the Styrofoam note someone else mentioned earlier: My thing I can’t stand is flour. Baking flour. You know how people spread it on cutting boards? There’s a sound there, and it makes my teeth itch and kind of makes me panic. The same thing is true for my fiancĂ© with cotton balls- he swears they make a squeaking sound that makes him want to chew off his fingers. So that’s the opposite of this, right?

  24. Katherine on February 26th, 2014 1:17 pm

    AAGGGGGG! Mouth noises!!! The worst!

  25. Jackie on February 26th, 2014 1:21 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this before your post. Fascinating! It’s funny how many weird things there are out there. My husband and daughter both shiver pee (wtf?) and I have exploding head syndrome – yes that’s a thing. I hear explosions or pops when I’m falling asleep.

  26. kim on February 26th, 2014 1:59 pm

    i can’t even begin to watch these without getting creeped out. maybe if i just listened?

    re: rule 34, i once found a collection of youtube videos of elevator rides. just someone taking a camera and walking into an elevator, watching the doors close, running the camera up and down the buttons, and then getting out once the doors opened. that was it. i didn’t know that was a thing either.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H729il4RCkQ

  27. Rachel on February 26th, 2014 2:47 pm

    I can assure you that the rule 34 doesn’t really apply to the majority of the role-playing videos (though there probably are porny ones too out there). I know someone for whom close attention like that triggers ASMR like crazy, but from what I understand, it just gives brain-tingles, not nether-tingles.

  28. Donna on February 26th, 2014 5:34 pm

    I don’t get it. I felt nothing. Except kind of annoyed that blondie was trying to be sexy? No shivers though. Although I do like the head thing, it does give me shivers, but only if someone else does it to me….not if I do it myself. People are weird.

  29. Molly on February 26th, 2014 6:07 pm

    I have this too! I discovered these videos a month or so ago and I feel like a weirdo. I don’t love watching them necessarily, more just listening to them. Especially the ones where people are sorting through makeup. The role play ones creep me out. The time these ASM-artists (ha!) take to set some of them up is astounding.

  30. Kristin on February 27th, 2014 8:59 am

    I just read about this in O magazine! Ah, humans… gotta love us! ;)

  31. Emily on February 27th, 2014 10:41 am

    I never knew what this was called! I wish the videos were less pervy because it really is relaxing. Maybe it’s the intimacy of the whispering? Now I’m down the rabbit hole and can’t stop searching for the *right* video for me.

  32. Casey on February 27th, 2014 11:38 am

    This could be why I love Enya. Against my better judgment.

    Too much bass in a song makes me nauseous. It’s disorienting to me.

  33. Tiff on February 27th, 2014 7:10 pm

    I had the same response when I found out there was a name for the weird feelings I had for certain noises and sensations a few years ago. People turning book pages and tongue clicking have given me shivers since I was a kid. I read an article that included this woman’s youtube page and it is strangely soothing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SJGwy4Erq4

  34. Sara on February 28th, 2014 9:36 am

    I love those head massagers!! Just watching this video makes my head tickle!! http://youtu.be/89bcFDlP5rw

  35. Ami on February 28th, 2014 6:13 pm

    OMG, anti-ASMR here, I guess. Just NOOOO. :)

  36. Suebob on March 1st, 2014 11:24 am

    I had heard of this. I know someone who makes a web series (The Louise Log) where the main character whispers and I thought ASMR people would be a good audience, so I suggested that to her. It turns out, though, that Louise is a horribly anxious whisperer, so ASMR people actually hate her show a lot. The more you know (**rainbow**)

  37. Nancy on March 2nd, 2014 8:01 pm

    OMG, clearly I do not have ASMR, as all I want to do while listening to these videos is tell them to stop mumbling and SPEAK UP if they are going to make videos. :-)

    So what is the name for the phenomenon when a sound makes you tense up and cringe? Squeaking balloons give me a feeling right behind my jawbone that makes me just cringe.

    Humans are so weird – it’s so cool how we are all wired differently.

  38. Amy on March 4th, 2014 5:42 pm

    I love witnessing people discover they have this for the first time. I accidentally “came out” as an ASMR enjoyer to my brother, who freaked out b/c he has it too! My favorite is Yanghai Ying…Look her up on You Tube. Get this — I listen to them at work and go into a relaxed trance of super productivity. Crazy, right?

  39. Amy on March 4th, 2014 5:44 pm

    Correction — My fave is Yang Haiying. I messed up.

  40. Courtney on March 6th, 2014 11:27 am

    Glad to know it is an actual thing and I’m not alone in this. And like another commenter mentioned I get the same feeling from certain life events. So weird.

  41. Kath on March 8th, 2014 7:35 pm

    Jackie… Really? I am off to research exploding head syndrome. Linda, thank you for these conversations. I have misophonia and listened two three seconds of the video before I had to hit cancel!

  42. Sharon on March 18th, 2014 9:58 pm

    This is really interesting. I have the scalp tingly thing sometimes, but this didn’t do it. I just kept trying to turn up the volume… probably not the point?

  43. cheap jordans online on March 24th, 2014 11:19 pm

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