What is ASMR?

ASMR has helped me more than I can explain. From sleepless nights, stressful evenings and just times needing to chill, ASMR has been able to provide me with the much needed relaxation. For some people ASMR is great, it’s able to help them sleep better, perhaps works well as background noise while they’re working or studying and even helps calm them down for stressful situations. For those that don’t experience ASMR though it can be a very confusing and slightly odd thing for people to become obsessed with.

The technical term for ASMR is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It’s still a largely unknown area because of the personal nature of the experiences, the recentness of its popularity and it being difficult to measure.

Search ASMR on YouTube and you will come up with a whole host of videos that you may not understand. People tapping on boxes, dentists whispering to you, people offering to do your makeup. It’s odd if you don’t know why you’re watching it. You’re watching it for the “tingles”. The tingles that usually occur in the upper back, neck or head region. These tingles are brought out through various “triggers” (the box tapping, whispering etc) and so finding out if/what your triggers are is the first important thing. You may remember back to being at school when somebody asked to borrow something and seeing them using it sent tingles up your spine. You may even remember hearing the sounds of scratching pens and pencils making you feel more relaxed than on edge. It’s different for each person and the best thing I can suggest if you think you may have ASMR or want to experience it is to look around for your triggers.

Personally I use ASMR as relaxation and comfort. I like the whispering videos because they feel close and intimate and it’s not something I get in every day life. The key ones for me are the sound videos. Tapping boxes, iPads, tables, glasses, bottles, etc. They all make different noises and for me they all elicit a sort of positive response in my body that makes listening to them enjoyable. Some videos I didn’t think I would ever like – for example mouth sound videos – because I can’t stand the sound of them in everyday life but the idea of having control over when you hear it is actually quite a nice feeling too.

One common misconception is that ASMR brings out sexual feelings when listening to it, and so people who don’t understand sometimes view it as slightly pornographic or “dirty”. It’s not. Most people have no sexual response to ASMR and it is in fact just a generic pleasurable feeling rather than anything linked directly to sexuality. Some ASMRtists (the accepted name for somebody who makes ASMR videos) do use sexuality to encourage views of their videos but this isn’t to be confused with the response people feel from it.

I know of people who use ASMR to help calm them down before scary encounters. For some a dentist roleplay might seem bizarre but having a comforting and relaxing voice talking you through things is nice if you’re a bit nervous about your upcoming trip to the dentist.

ASMR is fully utilised with headphones because the sound is so close that you can hear every little movement. It’s also beneficial because sometimes ASMRtists can make it feel like they are talking into a specific ear (like somebody sitting next to you and whispering into your right ear).

The other great thing about ASMR is the community. I have never experienced such a friendly community. People watch these videos to relax and feel comforted, people make the videos to help and give back to people. Most videos I have watched have very few if any negative comments and sometimes people even offer constructive feedback about how to better enjoy a sound if you find something isn’t working for you. It is possibly one of the friendliest communities I have come across.

But where do I start? This video is probably the best suggestion I can give you if you’re curious. It was the video I started with and some amazing effort has gone into making it. It includes a wide variety of triggers so perhaps skim that video and see if anything triggers you.

Some of my favourite ASMRtists:

Fairy Char ASMR

Mr Meridian ASMR

Sebastian ASMR

The ASMR Gamer

Fred’s Voice ASMR

These are just a few ASMRtists out there. It’s important to find one that you’re comfortable watching. Some have a preference over the gender of their ASMRtists and some just like the sounds. It is entirely subjective and you should be able to explore and actively participate in the community as much as you would like to.


Chasing The Likes

When I was very young and somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would tell them I wanted to be a lawyer. Then they told me that required lots of hard work and studying so I changed my mind and pursued the dream of being a writer.

I was asked the same question again when I saw my first psychologist (two years ago). My reply was simple; Actor or Writer. When she asked me if I could see myself doing anything else I replied with “I wouldn’t be happy though.” At the time I thought nothing of it but a few weeks later we had been talking more and more and she had come up with the suggestion that perhaps I find myself wanting the validation of other people more than I want the validation from myself. It was an interesting thought although I didn’t dwell on it for very long at the time. I had spent too many years wanting to be a writer or a journalist to just let that dream die.

It wasn’t until last week when I watched a viral video circulating the internet that I realised just how right she might be. The video explains about the current generation and their social media addiction. Now, I don’t believe myself to have an addiction to social media. I will quite happily leave my phone in my room while I go downstairs to watch TV. I turn the phone off when I’m at work and don’t have it with me at all. I can play games for hours on end and forget to check social media for a long time. That is, however, unless I’ve done something.

By “done something” this isn’t even specific. I could have updated my Facebook status or sent a tweet on Twitter, hell even when I share a blog post I find myself becoming slightly addicted to social media. I didn’t know why this was, I thought it was just because I wanted somebody to like and share my thoughts and ideas, turns out I was a little off the mark.

The reason my social media addiction flares up then is because the brain releases dopamine when people like, share or favourite your things. I will lunge for my phone every time it makes a noise if I think somebody might have subscribed to my blog or liked something I posted on twitter.

It’s probably not news to most people who don’t “chase the likes” because they are removed from the situation and can watch it from the outside. For people like me, we don’t even realise we’re doing it. We argue with friends when they don’t like or share a status or something. Because, to us, it means you don’t value me and I get my validation from what you think of me. I become addicted to that feeling when I see my work shared and liked or commented on. It’s an amazing feeling that actually shoots my happiness way up the charts. However, like any addict, my mood crashes when I don’t get my “hit”. When I don’t get the likes I want or the shares I expect, my mood crashes and I get depressed. These are some of the times it hits the hardest as well because I feel worthless and devalued.

The problem? I don’t know how to not “chase the likes” because it’s all I’ve ever really known. My personality was formed around social media and the internet. It is pounded into us daily that the more followers you have on Twitter the better you are. Viral videos make people celebrities. Overnight fame is achievable. It may be fickle but it’s achievable much more than it was for previous generations.

But this doesn’t help depression. When YouTubers hit a million subscribers, when vloggers get invited to television shows, this just hammers home that I’m not good enough for this world. There is a female YouTuber named Zoella who a lot of people assume I hate. I don’t hate her. I hate her celebrity status? Why? Jealousy. I need the validation that she is getting from other people. I need that following to feel worthwhile in life. It sounds sad to actually read the words back but I can’t argue with how my body reacts to things. For the record, I don’t hate Zoella. Like all YouTubers I claim to “hate” or even “dislike” it’s just jealousy. You have something I want and I’m eternally chasing the validation you get on a daily basis.

I don’t particularly even have a solution here. I’m not going cold turkey from social media because my whole life is built around social media. In my spare time I’m on YouTube. I connect with my friends through Facebook. I check my Twitter when on my break at work. I can’t cold turkey it but I do have to admit I’m an addict for the likes. I don’t know how to not crave that validation or how to find the validation within myself. I just don’t know how to do it.

I’m sorry this is another blog post that doesn’t end happily, but it’s sort of life at the moment. They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem and so please consider this my admission. However, without help, I don’t know how to quit. But, as far as I know, they don’t make chewing gum or patches for quitting others validation.

Online Gaming and Bullying?

First I should preface this entire thing with the saying that “I am not a professional gamer”. I do not play games to earn money or win tournaments or anything like that. I am a gamer that plays for fun. Win or lose I don’t particularly mind, as long as the game is fun to play. With that being said I think I should begin.

I grew up with games and gaming. It was my release from a world that felt didn’t understand me and to interact with people (albeit we only had local multiplayer back then) who I had something in common with. I was lucky enough to be around for the widespread birth of internet gaming, an idea that 8 or 9 year old me would love. A chance to interact with people all over the world who share the same love and passion for games that I do. I very quickly learned that this was not the case.

Early instances of online multiplayer, with games such as Smackdown and Tekken, offered no penalty for quitting a game halfway through. This meant that as soon as you started losing you could quit and it would protect your “reputation”. This is an annoying act in itself as the idea of leaving anything unfinished and unresolved aggravates a lot of people. We were lucky though because it didn’t take long for companies to pick up on this and install certain penalties if you left halfway through a game. However, this didn’t come without problems.

At school  you have to face bullies because you are kept in a place with them, maybe it’s a classroom or a playground, until the teacher dismisses you. This is what has now happened with gaming. Should you not want to quit a game halfway through then you can be subjected to bullying by the rest of the people playing the game.

This happened to me recently. I took a foray into online gaming with a fantastic game called Overwatch that I had heard a lot about. I was so excited about this game because it was genuinely a really good game.

(This wasn’t my first Blizzard game though, I had put a lot of hours into Hearthstone and was always excited to load it up. I wanted the same experience from Overwatch.)

But I do fear my experience with Overwatch has been tainted by the recent bullying I have experienced. I admit I am not great at the game. I’m playing to have fun remember, not necessarily to be the best at the game. However other people feel it fine to tell me through the chat feature to uninstall my game because I’m so bad at it. They also feel the need to tell me which characters I get to play as and then moan about it to the team if I don’t follow their orders. I thought this would go down badly on Overwatch but I found that people AGREED. My team were shouting expletives through the chat at me just because I hadn’t devoted my entire life to being the best at Overwatch. It really put me out when one of my team suggested that the entire team “report me” for reasons unspecified (I believe reporting should only be used for bullying and/or threatening/disruptive behaviour). What really shocked me was that my team agreed! They knew I wasn’t as good as them, your level is clearly displayed, but to gang up and agree a group report based on nothing more than my ability at the game is sickening. This isn’t even “good-natured fun between friends”, I don’t know these people and what they’re saying is not “good-natured fun”, it’s vindictive and horrible bullying.

I don’t write this for me. Personally I’ve given up caring what people think about me when I’m playing games. I don’t play games to help you win, I play whatever is fun for me. I write this for the people who have a hard enough time in their everyday lives and who want to escape into a game only to find themselves vilified and bullied because they don’t practice every waking hour. It equates to bullying. You see people picking on somebody in a school playground you would do something, why do we accept it in gaming circles? Gamers, as people, have a history of being marginalised and so why do we try and do it to each other. Why can’t we offer out an olive branch of perhaps asking somebody if they need help or tips with certain characters? Offering better play strategies? Suggesting easier characters to play as (but if they don’t want to that’s their choice). It’s not a difficult thing to do, it’s actually just being a nice human being.

I understand this boils down to bullying and why people bully. These people have their domain where they are the Alpha Male – tough guys have the playground and gamers have online games – and that they are essentially trying to assert their dominance by bullying others. But bullying, any form it comes in, is disgusting. Games are not a place where gamers should be scared to go, games should be a safe-haven for those having a tough time, those who find it hard to make friends in the outside world, a place where you can escape your “ordinary” life for a while.

Please, let’s not let this get out of hand. You don’t know the mental stability of the person you are playing against. You can’t judged someone’s mental health on how they play and you can’t guarantee that your words aren’t going to be taken personally.

Thank you. As always, if you know somebody who is going through a hard time similar to this then please direct them to this blog and let them know that they aren’t alone and how they’re feeling isn’t something to be ashamed of or to hide away.

Follow me on Twitter – @JoshuaJace121