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Personal Essay: ASMR
How I Lost My ASMR
By Paige Towers
It’s not like I just woke up one morning and my ASMR was gone.
It didn’t go missing like keys or a mitten; it just faded out slowly, until one day last summer after plugging my headphones into my laptop, opening YouTube and playing an ASMR video of a woman drawing a picture of a bird, I realized that I no longer experienced “the tingles” at all anymore and probably hadn’t for some time. So I closed my laptop, took my headphones off, and walked away.
For those of you who don’t know, ASMR—short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response—is a response that presents itself as a pleasurable, unique, tingling sensation in the head or scalp that can also extend down the body through the spine and into the limbs. This phenomenon occurs in response to certain triggers (like watching someone draw, for instance), and the responses vary depending on the person and/or the situation. ASMR videos—which are made by “ASMR artists,” otherwise known as “ASMRists” or “whisperers”—started popping up online around 2006. These videos may arguably look a little weird to the outside observer, but they’re now watched by millions of people worldwide.
And I used to be one of those millions of people. I watched ASMR videos almost daily after “discovering” them in late 2011 while in graduate school. ASMR videos helped me deal with anxiety, depression, stress, an affinity for whiskey and weed that turned into an affinity for too much whiskey and weed…They quieted my thinking when I felt lost and couldn’t stop questioning (as every writer or aspiring writer must do at some point) whether I really was good enough to make it in a business where even people who are good at this craft often fail.
By 2014, I was so infatuated with ASMR that I had the idea to write a book on the subject and began spending countless hours a week researching and thinking about ASMR. After several months of working on that book, as well as meeting with an ASMR group that I started in New York City, I took on even more initiative and decided to try to organize an ASMR convention—“trying” being the operative word. Organizing an event that size was hugely time consuming to the point where I didn’t even have the energy or time to focus on my manuscript after getting home from work. Thus, for many reasons (including not heeding the old adage: “know who you’re going into business with), my efforts eventually failed.
Once the convention was done for and I had time to step back and breathe, I realized my new reality: I was utterly “ASMR-ed out.”
Which was weird, because for as long as I can remember, last summer was the first time in my life that I didn’t experience the tingles. As a kid, I used to decompress after school by watching videotapes of Bob Ross painting landscapes; I’d get “the tingles” from something as simple as my older sister brushing my hair or drawing me a picture; a cousin used to show me her newest beauty products and I was mesmerized by the whole process—the clinking of nail polish bottles, the careful explanations of each item, the rustling sounds as she reached into a bag for the next thing to display.
Yet, even the scratch of a pen or someone flipping through a newspaper —sounds that occasionally used to trigger my ASMR before—not only didn’t relax me, but actually irritated me.
Thus, I ceased watching ASMR videos of any sort. I kept my Google alert for “ASMR,” but stopped opening any articles that popped up. I even reluctantly decided to set aside my book manuscript because I couldn’t stand to look at it anymore. I asked myself: who was this person that used to get so much simple pleasure from watching a video of a woman drawing or, you know, organizing her button collection? I couldn’t relate to her.
Yet, now, after several months of avoiding the topic altogether, I’ve come to the following (and fairly simple) conclusion: ASMR is no different than any other part of life, as in, if you talk and think and read and write about it all the time, you’re probably going to get tired of it.
Before the days of YouTube, my ASMR used to only pop up on occasion. Once I learned that there were thousands of ASMR trigger videos on the Internet, I was able to watch them with no limitations. And so--voila!--the more I immersed myself in ASMR, the more the positive effects diminished. My body essentially became desensitized to it.
The other reason I believe I lost my ASMR stems from the fact that, in order to write my book and organize the convention, I started up correspondence with many ASMRists whom I used to frequently watch. Thus, I inadvertently broke down the wall of anonymity that the Internet so comfortingly provides. Although before all this started, it felt like I knew some of my favorite ASMRists because I so religiously watched their videos, I of course didn’t actually know them. As it turns out, for me, this distinction made a huge difference.
Therefore, even if I had a wonderful and positive real life interaction with an ASMRist—which I did the vast majority of the time—the people that used to put to me sleep every night were no longer just people I watched on YouTube. Maybe I even had an email from them in my inbox that I needed to hurry up and respond to. It felt awkward. I’d killed that magical bubble of invisibility.
In regards to a couple of artists who turned out to be entirely different people than what they presented on the Internet, watching their videos again proved to be impossible. Those once beloved clips of nail tapping or scrapbooking or unboxing that once helped ease my anxiety now felt like stress bombs. As soon as I’d hear that person’s voice, I’d be reminded of how condescending and rude they’d acted in real life over email or on the phone. Yes, there are thousands of ASMR channels to subscribe to on YouTube, but after being treated poorly by an ASMRist or two whom I used to feel so safe with, I was disillusioned with the ASMR community in general. (This is entirely unfair, of course.)
After months of the same, I started to worry that I’d lost my ASMR for good.
That is, until a few weeks ago during my morning commute on the subway, something changed. A woman sitting next to me was applying makeup (just like so many ASMRists do in their videos) and, within seconds, I became utterly relaxed. While most New Yorkers frown upon personal grooming on public transportation, the sounds of her tapping makeup brushes and opening and closing cosmetic cases made my shoulders loosen and my breathing slow down. I could have been lying on the beach instead of sitting in a packed, overheated train car.
In fact, I was so immersed in the experience that it didn’t even occur to me until after I’d gotten off at my stop that my ASMR was back. The experience had been just as organic as any I’d had when I was a young child.
Since that day on the subway, I’ve experienced small feelings of ASMR a few more times. I even watched my first ASMR video last week. Although I didn’t experience “the tingles,” I felt much more at ease than usual. I don’t know when exactly I’ll start writing and revising my book again, but I’ve been feeling so positive about ASMR that I decided to read over my half-finished manuscript the other day—something I hadn’t done for months. After finishing reading, I laughed out loud because I realized that, all along, the story hadn’t really been about Internet trends or the artists who (so selflessly) create and upload videos. The story lies in my experiences with ASMR.
For many of us, moments of ASMR pop up in our happier childhood memories, and then later help soothe and heal us as stress-ridden adults. No person, negative experience or Internet video should be able to take that away from you; nothing that ingrained in your being can truly be lost, right? I like to assume that for now mine is merely hiding. When I’m feeling back to my old self, I’ll turn on an ASMR video—maybe an old favorite, like the one of the woman drawing a bird—and those “tingles” may just reappear.
#Real #Essay #ASMR #Sensation #Senses #Lost #Positive
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