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.

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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.

I got a FitBit recently (the Flex variety as opposed to the newer Force, which turned out to be a good decision on account of the Force being recalled for causing mysterious skin rashes) and I’m suddenly obsessed with metrics that had exactly zero impact on my life before I started wearing this naggy rubber band. Like sleeping, for instance. I sleep just fine, but now I find myself poring over my sleep data every morning like it’s a particularly cryptic episode of True Detective. I was briefly restless at 3 AM, what does it meeeeaaaan? If you rearrange all the lines from my sleep chart does it make a spiral? IS THE YELLOW KING INVOLVED SOMEHOW?

I am also, of course, preoccupied with how to get in those elusive 10,000 steps per day, which isn’t remotely easy given the fact that I spend most of my day within the confines of our not-exactly-palatial house. My current fitness routine mostly involves bodyweight circuit training, which the FitBit doesn’t really grok (yesterday it counted a one-hour spleen-busting workout as “two active minutes,” which felt deeply unfair), and while I wasn’t worried about my lack of brisk daily walks beforehand, now that I have a thing on my wrist telling me what a sedentary slug I am I find myself taking the most inefficient routes to complete my tasks in order to boost those steps. Why haul an entire basket of laundry out to the washer when I can ferry each sock one by one? Maybe I should pace a captive-lion-at-a-really-depressing-zoo path into my living room carpet while I’m at it. Hey, what if I just stand still but pump my arms vigorously back and forth?

This is all probably good in terms of peeling my ass away from the laptop on a regular basis, what with all those dire studies that basically say the only thing more dangerous than sitting at an office chair during the day is if you also smoke, shoot krokodil, and stuff wadded-up chunks of glazed donuts directly into your arteries. But also, like, maybe a tiny bit crazymaking? Yeah. *jogs vigorously from kitchen to bedroom 9691043 times in a row*

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