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“Multiple triggers are layered to get an effect.” The bizarreness of this footage means ASMR isn’t without controversies. In June 2018, the Chinese government banned ASMR videos, branding them “vulgar” and “pornographic”. In August, PayPal began blocking the accounts of ASMRtists who received money to make custom videos (although the company later denied it has a policy against ASMR content). For those who don’t experience ASMR, the videos can seem fetishistic. Beyond the weirdness of whispering and making “mouth sounds” as in Kelly’s honeycomb video, some people nickname ASMR a “brain orgasm”.

Inside big tech’s high-stakes race for quantum supremacy. In June 2018, Poerio conducted a study where she monitored the physiological responses around ASMR. Videos designed to trigger ASMR were played to 50 people who get ASMR and a control group of 50 non-ASMR participants. “We found that people who experience ASMR showed significant reductions in their heart rates compared to non-ASMR participants,” Poerio explains, “These reductions are comparable to other stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness and music therapy.” Poerio says this finding is crucial because reduced heart rates prove people who enjoy ASMR are not sexually aroused. “I compare it to getting the world’s best massage, but no one has to be touching you because you can feel it by watching ASMR videos,” says Craig Richard, a professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at Shenandoah University, and the founder of ASMR University, a website dedicated to ASMR news and research. Richard, who is also the author of Brain Tingles: The Secret to Triggering Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response for Improved Sleep, Stress Relief, and Head-to-Toe Euphoria , estimates around 20 per cent of the population experience strong ASMR. What triggers people may come down to individual preferences. “The key to triggering ASMR is to create gentle sounds,” he says. Richard’s own triggers include eye exams and [the Netflix series] The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross .

In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. The science of colour is upending our relationship with screens. According to YouTube estimates, there are more than 45 million ASMR videos uploaded to the site, and, over the past year, there has been a marked increase in children making ASMR-related videos. Richard hypothesises that our brain is probably more receptive to an unknown child than a strange adult, making it easier for some individuals to be relaxed by ASMR videos featuring children. The question is, is it right for a child to trigger – as the title of Richard’s book puts it – “head-to-toe euphoria” in adults? For instance, on her YouTube channel “ASMR Toddler”, five-year old Aoki Hunnicutt whispers, plays with her dolls’ hair and chews gum for delighted fans. In her most-watched video, she role-plays as a make-up artist by pretending to apply products to the viewer. (She also frequently gets distracted and picks her nose.) “For me, something about when kids whisper, it’s, oh my god, it’s so relaxing,” says Desireé Hunnicutt, Aoki’s mother, who started watching ASMR videos in 2011. Hunnicutt says she was motivated to create the AMSR Toddler channel in order to help people. “I see comments where people are like, ‘Oh my goodness, I watch every night and it helps me fall asleep,’” she says. “To me that’s perfect, that’s what we’re trying to do.” Most importantly for Hunnicutt, Aoki seems to love making videos. Like most five-year-olds, she loves trying on her mother’s lipsticks, but unlike most five-year-olds, Aoki was encouraged to rummage in her mum’s make-up bag – and a camera captured the results. “I put all the lipstick on!” Aoki grins, explaining this video was her favourite to make. ‘It’s bullshit’: Inside the weird, get-rich-quick world of dropshipping. “If you can’t experience it you’re gonna either think it’s weird or you’re gonna think it’s creepy,” Hunnicutt says. Aoki – now playing with her toys in the corner of the room – thinks aloud. “IT’S NOT CREEPY!” she shouts emphatically (although it’s worth noting that with her childish rhotacism, it comes out as “cweepy”). Like many ASMRtists, she notes that these videos help people with insomnia, PTSD and stress. “I mean there’s always some weirdos in the world, but you can’t stop helping others just because there are those people.” According to YouTube estimates, there are currently more than 45 million ASMR videos on the site. I n October 2017, Anthony Fleck, a 24-year-old ASMR fan, reported a channel by a “little girl” YouTuber whose commenters asked her to suck on pickles and lick lollipops. “I can’t speak for everybody but as an adult man I have no reason to ever want to watch a kid make ASMR videos,” Fleck says. “I saw her channel and it only took a few seconds of scrolling through the comments to see all these people asking her to do really perverse things that she obviously didn’t understand she shouldn’t be doing.” Fleck reported the channel to YouTube and asked others in the ASMR community to do the same. “I reported it under child abuse, which you think would immediately throw up a red flag but the channel stayed.” Months later, the channel disappeared – though it’s unclear if it was removed by YouTube or the girl herself. “This little girl was wearing sweatshirts with her school’s name on them, you have the danger of being doxxed, people finding out where you are.” Thankfully, Fleck feels the ASMR community look out for each other. “It’s just a little difficult because other than reaching out to get YouTube to do something, we’re kind of powerless.” What does a YouTuber do when they want to complain about YouTube? In October 2018, Makenna Kelly became the topic of outraged videos after she uploaded a role-play entitled “ASMR – SASSY Police Officer / Cop”.

In the video, Kelly wore a police officer costume and knee-high boots while wielding a baton. Her “sassy” behaviour – smacking her lips, singing the Pussycat Dolls song “Don’t Cha” and talking about Tinder dates – was interpreted as sexual by some viewers. In order to see this embed, you must give consent to Social Media cookies. ✰ (@lifewithmak2005) on Sep 30, 2018 at 2:13pm PDT. “In the video she’s wearing a Halloween costume of super-thin fabric – and this is probably too much information – but she’s wearing a bra in the video, like a bralette, but it kind of looks like she’s not wearing one.” Makenna hides her head in her hands. This economist has a radical plan to solve wealth inequality. “So there’s all that stuff going around where it’s like, OK, but I can’t cut her nipples off for the video,” Lacy says. The pair have no regrets about the role-play, which they scripted together and say is simply a comedy video. “It’s like, you can’t blame me for your mind working that way,” Makenna says.

“It’s not my problem your mind is in the gutter and stuff.” Two weeks after we speak, and seven weeks after it was first uploaded, Makenna’s “sassy cop” video is deleted by YouTube.


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