Monday, July 4, 2016

An Open Letter to ASMR Creators

Dear ASMR Creators,

You are creeping me out. What started as pure joy just two weeks ago has now turned to uncertainty and self-doubt. Let me explain.

Every since I was a kid, I knew that certain sounds connected to actions relaxed me. For example, in elementary school, I would finish my work early just to hear the scratching of the other students' pencils as they worked. Sure I thought I was kind of weird, but it relaxed me. I kept it to myself. And, I've always been the kind of person who gets a haircut and says nothing. It's confounding to the stylist who seems to feel the need to talk to make me happy. Rather, I'm much happier with no talking and just the sound of the scissors and razors, and the attention of having my hair cut. It relaxes me.

Later in life, I found myself watching various videos to learn this or that software or technical gadget and discovered that certain technical videos relaxed me. It was usually someone with a soft, even voice. The voice combined with the tapping of keys and the clicking of a mouse as they demonstrated this or that was like manna from heaven: pure relaxation. I often used the videos to go to sleep. The videos I liked the most I saved offline; I worried they might be removed from the Internet and I'd never find them again. Sure, I felt a little weird about it, but hey, I wasn't breaking the law.

It became obvious I really liked certain sounds to relax when one year we commissioned a bricklayer to rebuild our chimney. During the several months that he worked, I lay on the floor inside the house, out of view, relishing the sounds of him working. First, a gentle tap, tap, tap as he used the trowel handle to adjust the brick level. Then, a soft scrape of the trowel blade as it picked up extra mortar squeezed out as he settled the brick into place. Very strange, but even stranger was that I found bricklaying videos on the Internet and used them to relax before going to bed, long after the chimney was finished. A strange proclivity, perhaps.

But here's the thing: these actions, real life or video, weren't created specifically to relax me, that was just an unintentional side effect.

Now imagine my surprise, when just a few weeks ago I discovered ASMR: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. What I had been experiencing all my life has a name! I discovered I wasn't alone. I wasn't that odd after all. I found all sorts of information about ASMR and videos created to trigger ASMR.

But, as I started looking closer, I realized that many of these videos actually made me feel uncomfortable, and in some cases creep me out. To name just a few: AMSR Makeup Roleplay, ASMR tapping (which includes 10 hours of tapping, crinkle & trigger sounds where the host is wearing a rubber glove crinkling packaging at one point in the video), ASMR eating, ASMR barber, ASMR towel folding, Tony Bomboni, and a full body massage labeled as ASMR that unfortunately I can never erase from my mind.

I admit, part of the problem with the videos may be my reluctance to be identified as someone who might want to watch or use these videos to relax. Maybe I don't feel special anymore. Before, when I didn't know what the hell my relaxation mojo was called, I felt slightly weird in my pleasures but at least it was my thing. Now, I'm faced with the choice of belonging to a community of people who relax when someone puts make-believe makeup on a camera, folds towels for hours on end, or obsessively touches book covers and taps things. Case in point: ASMR Elder Scrolls Maps (what are they?) where an unseen self-titled ASMR nerd fondles and taps things in unnatural ways.

That brings me to another part of my angst with the ASMR content that I find: much of it is overly self-conscious in its attempt to evoke ASMR. For me, the best ASMR is evoked unintentionally. Great you say, look up unintentional ASMR. But that too seems like it's abused with people labeling content as "unintentional" or "inadvertent" while clearly going for an ASMR effect. People in fact label existing content like old Rob Ross videos (man can he paint!) or Dr. Willie Ong (drink your water!) videos as ASMR. Who knows if the original creator would even want that label?

Please forgive me if I sound strident. I went from 0 to 60 mph with ASMR: just too darn quickly and it's all a bit of a rush. I need to slow down, cool off, maybe watch some ASMR jewelry show and tell. That might help calm me down. Honestly, perhaps my real problem is with the Internet. I just don't feel special anymore. Even my private little pleasures seem like been-there-done-that. But what is one to do, stick their head in the (ASMR) sand?


P.S. I admit, that I do have a special affection for yanghaiying's museum tours and tea blah blah blah videos.

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