Thursday Chatter | April 23

Good morning, Flamefolk!
I want to talk to you today about something on the internet that I found strange. Something strange…on the internet…try not to be shocked.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on Youtube these days. I’m trying to improve my skills with this über doodling fad called Zentangle®. It seems like everyone who has ever picked up a pen to do it has made a video about it. Sometimes it’s just a person drawing with music laid over the recording. Sometimes it’s a person giving instructions as they draw. Typically I mute the vid and just watch what they’re doing.

So the other day, the mute was off when I came across a video of someone drawing a particular tangle who whispered the whole way through it. I thought maybe she had lost her voice. Out of pure nosiness, I clicked on one of her other videos and found myself in a very uncomfortable place watching this young woman recording her vlog in a whisper and making flirty eyes at the camera. She was describing her upcoming wedding and the stress of planning it, in what struck me as a coy whisper.

All of the videos on her channel were labeled ASMR and by intentionally clicking a non-doodling post, I suddenly had a list of ASMR video suggestions made by tons of other vloggers. “What is ASMR?” I wondered. Do these people have severe asthma and can’t talk above a whisper? Is it a society of people offended by loud talkers? Do they share some big secret of which I am not yet privy? I had to know, so I asked my buddy Google.

Wiki chimed in with the answer. “Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neologism for 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, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli.” Whispering is one of the many triggers of this response.

Well, I like pleasurable tingling sensations, so I figured I’d dig a little deeper. I went back to Youtube and looked for a different Vlogger. This one had a binaural mic, so if you are wearing headphones you can experience the sound on each side of your head independently (which was always super cool when Pink Floyd did it). She whispered, shook a shaving cream can then smooshed some on her ear mics, dropped gelcaps into a wooden bowl…

I got through about ten minutes of this next video – skipping around and fast forwarding some – until I just couldn’t take it anymore. The whispering, the hand gestures, her face so close to the camera and all of the facial language that seemed designed to be alluring and sensual. It was far too intimate. Like I was eavesdropping on some long distance Skype foreplay – but not in a happy voyeuristic way.

This thing is supposed to be relaxing, but I have yet to watch a video that doesn’t make me completely uncomfortable. And I’m evidently not the only one. An article I read about the controversial phenomenon of ASMR reiterated multiple times that it is a non-sexual sensation and that it is not associated with sexual arousal. Me thinks they doth reiterate too much. No, I don’t think the intent of the vlog caster is to provide sexual stimulation, but if they have to underline the point so much I’m not the only one who feels smarmy watching it.

In preparing for our conversation today, I found a Reddit thread that shares many videos from ASMR connoisseurs with the triggers provided by the video in brackets. Talk to me about how they make you feel.

The whole discovery got me thinking about those tingling sensations and my own triggers. There is frisson style tingling that is on the border of painful for me. I get that from scratching across a finely grooved surface. Like old LP’s when people drag the needle across, or thighs rubbing together in parachute pants. Probably the worst for me is when a guitarist drags his pick up or down the finely coiled metal strings. This reaction (and my complete lack of understanding of music) is the reason I will never play the Cello. (I actually just got a tingle merely thinking about the sound.)

But are there good tingles to be had from sounds? Circling back to Pink Floyd, I remember as a teen feeling a sense near euphoria listening to certain parts of Dark Side of the Moon with headphones on. As an adult, I’ve felt the same listening to some tracks by Portishead & Massive Attack. There are certain songs in the bodies of work for Tori Amos, Sarah Mclachlan, and even Alanis Morissette that when they hit a certain note I get tingles up the back of my head. And then there are the random things I come across that trigger an emotion that is neither always happy or sad, but make me cry and get choked up. It’s just a feeling of intensity that is almost always brought on by empathy whether it is for strangers reported about on the news or characters in a movie. It can be embarrassing at times.

How do you relate to ASMR style triggers and the videos attempting to connect that community? What would your triggers be? There is more to the phenom than just sounds, would you have a stronger chance of reaction from tactile experiences or scents?
Let’s chat about this today.

Don’t miss Act III – it’s due on Sunday.

Have you read Acts I & II? Check out our reading lists here and here to share some comment love.

APAD is nearing a close. Read the poems and add your own. Bardi and Kathy have shared some true gems in there.


About t.s.wright

Writer, reader, casual photographer, nature-lover, dog mom. I grew up in a tree, inside a book, whispering possible futures into discarded seed pods that curled up and exploded each summer. One day, they cut down my tree and I was forced to go to school while waiting for the replacement trees to grow strong enough to hold me. But while we waited, I grew too heavy and awkward to climb, so I had to get a job. I spent my days surrounded by flimsy walls covered in carpet that made boxes and people who forgot to look out windows. I worked really hard. Possibilities were replaced with formulas and exactitude. Eventually I forgot how to climb a tree...and how to smile. Then one day, a dog licked my foot excessively and I remembered smiling. That reminded me of more things that didn't cost money and couldn't be tallied in a spreadsheet - like hugs and love and being happy. So I found myself a Steve who reminded me what home was. Then we filled it and our hearts with dogs. Eventually we planted our own tree, together. Even though I'm happy right here, right now, I remembered that we all need possibilities to dream of, so I've started writing them down.
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One Response to Thursday Chatter | April 23

  1. Music definitely does it for me, and if I were to be forced to choose that would always be my choice. I am quite surprised that so much amateur and professional work has gone on in this area, though. I suppose we’re all just that hungry for pleasurable sensation? And I guess feeling smarmy is possibly the least negative side-effect that could be had from seeking out pleasurable tingly sensations … so I guess there’s nothing too negative I can say about it. (Much safer than the side-effects following that awesome needley sensation gained from low-dose narcotics, anyway. Kids, DON’T DO DRUGS!)

    Your experience has been so well described here (and so obviously unsettling) that I don’t think I’ll be trying out any of those videos you mentioned 😉 Maybe I’ll just hunt up my headphones and some Dark Side of the Moon! That’ll bring back a pleasant memory… I’ll have to tell ya about it sometime.


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