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Aug 23, 2022

What is ASMR? Why is it so popular?

Emily Lawrenson

Emily Lawrenson

Qustodio writer

What is ASMR and what does it mean

The ASMR trend has exploded on the internet over the last decade. Do a simple search for the acronym on YouTube, and you’ll find almost 5.2 million videos. In the past 3 years alone, search interest for ASMR has increased by over 140%. The hashtag is a huge trend on TikTok and Instagram, returning thousands upon thousands of related content. 

“OK,” we hear you say. “Interesting statistics…but just what is ASMR?”. Let’s find out more about the internet sensation sweeping the planet.

What is ASMR?

ASMR is an immersive, often calming feeling that starts as a tingling sensation, spreading from the scalp to the back of your neck, then down your spine. Some people experience the sensation through specific triggers they can hear, see, or feel. The sights and sounds of a softly spoken story, the pages of a book being turned, or even the sounds people make when they chew.

What does ASMR stand for?

The letters ASMR stand for autonomous sensory meridian response. While the term sounds learned, it wasn’t created by the scientific community. The feeling wasn’t officially named until 2010 when creator of the Facebook “ASMR Group” Jennifer Allen brainstormed a term to sound more clinical than “weird sensation feels good”, words people were already using to describe it on online forums.

Why do people like ASMR?

Not everyone experiences the sensation, but for the percentage of people who react to ASMR triggers, it can send them into a soothed, relaxed state. Imagine the feeling you get when someone runs their hands through your hair, or the purr of a cat as you pet it on your lap. These sensations can even be so strong that they have been described as almost trance-like for some individuals.

In recent years, the once-niche interest has become so popular that it no longer draws in viewers or listeners simply chasing the tingles. People watch ASMR videos for a number of reasons, including:

  • To have background noise playing, similar to how you might use white noise
  • To aid with concentration, as an alternative to music
  • To relax and unwind, as ASMR videos often feature slow movements without many visual distractions
  • Enjoying the content topic, whatever it might be – from cooking videos and roleplays to virtual pet experiences

Who started ASMR?

Jennifer Allen was the first person to coin the term in 2010, using it to debut and promote her Facebook “ASMR Group” on discussion boards showing interest in the sensation. It gained traction, and a community was born. 

Now, armed with a specific term to describe what the community was feeling, ASMR began to gain traction on YouTube and other video sharing sites. Creators like WhisperingLife ASMR, the ASMRtist behind some of the first whispering videos on YouTube (“Whisper 1 – hello!”), began to regularly upload videos to satisfy the niche.

From there, the content snowballed into popularity, growing every year in Google searches and video views.

What is ASMR on TikTok?

ASMR’s enormous growth in popularity means it is now a huge trend on social media platforms like TikTok. Unlike YouTube, where videos are often long and content-dense, TikTok creators, or ASMRtists, create bite-sized versions designed to captivate audiences on social media, where one to two minute videos are king. 

Because of the vast amount of content being uploaded to the platform, ASMR has found many different crossover trends on TikTok. You can now delight your ears with the crunches from eating videos, cooking sounds, noises from daily cleaning and organizing tasks, and the slathering-on of skincare products, to name but a few TikTok trends.

The most popular ASMR trends

The top ASMR searches on Google every month* include:

the top ASMR searches for 2022
*compiled August 2022.

OK – but just what is ASMR eating?

ASMR eating features the slurps, chews, crunches, gulps, and other food-related noises made while tucking in to a delicious meal. While for some, these sounds might be off-putting, they induce a pleasant, spine-tingling sensation in other viewers. 

ASMR eating videos have a lot in common with mukbang, the viral video trend where creators film themselves eating in front of a captive audience. In mukbang the focus is usually on speaking and telling a story, while in ASMR eating, the up close and personal sounds are the star of the show

What ASMR feels like

Is ASMR good for you?

A study in 2018 revealed how certain people’s bodies react in response to ASMR triggers. In people who reported they experienced the phenomenon, heart rate was significantly reduced, while for those who felt no kind of “brain tingles” when watching, no change was detected. 

One of the first studies on the phenomenon, published in 2015, found that some of the benefits of ASMR included better sleep, help in fighting off stress and negative moods, and even a relief from chronic pain symptoms in some cases.

Is ASMR safe?

If you’re a parent looking to learn more, because your child’s hopped right on the trend, you may be wondering – is ASMR bad, or dangerous? The easy answer, looking at all the benefits reported above, is a solid “no”. 

But like anything online, it’s easy for viewers to get sucked too far into the rabbit hole of bottomless content, clicking video after video, or watching for hours on end. 

Because of ASMR’s more therapeutic elements, many people like to use it as a sleep aid, which could in time become a habit difficult to break. The blue light emitted from screens before bed can also interfere with the body’s natural rhythms, in turn making it more of a challenge to fall asleep.  

As the trend grows, and because of the “up close and personal” nature of the content, an increasing amount of pornographic content related to ASMR is being created and searched for online, too. 

How to make ASMR safer for kids

To help keep ASMR content positive and healthy, it’s a good idea to:

  • Turn off Autoplay on YouTube
  • Turn on SafeSearch, or use Qustodio web filtering to help tune out inappropriate content
  • Turn on Restricted Mode to filter inappropriate content
  • Limit screen time in the hours before bed
  • Set parental controls on YouTube, or personal limits for how much content you can consume
  • Limit time on social media apps like TikTok to avoid endless scrolling

Because not everyone experiences the sensations related to ASMR, some watchers or people who enjoy it often feel they can’t discuss it with friends or family, because it comes with a stigma, often being seen as odd or strange. 

To help younger viewers stay positive about the kind of content they enjoy consuming online, talk to your kids regularly about their interests, and what motivates them to watch ASMR. You never know – it could end up being a hobby for the whole family! 

How can Qustodio help protect your family?

Qustodio is the best way to keep your kids safe online and help them create healthy digital habits. Our parental control tools ensure they don't access inappropriate content or spend too much time in front of their screens.