Have you ever watched ASMR? Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) refers to the tingling sensation people experience in their bodies in response to certain audio and visual stimuli. This feeling starts in the head and moves down the spine when a person watches or hears particular triggers, potentially causing goosebumps, brain tingles, feelings of relaxation, lowered heart rate, and mild euphoria. Some who experience ASMR have described the sensation as having a “brain orgasm.”
Many visual artists perform “triggers” on social media to stimulate neurological responses. I started watching ASMR on TikTok recently as a way of winding down before bed, and it’s very relaxing. My favorite ASMR artist (or ASMR-tist as they are known) is Elizabeth Whispers. She joined me for an interview.
Splice Today: Tell us a little bit about you.
Elizabeth Whispers: My internet pseudonym is Elizabeth Whispers, and I’m an ASMRtist on TikTok and YouTube. I’m originally from the UK, but was raised in Hong Kong. I moved to the USA six years ago and have enjoyed the adventure of the unfamiliar since then. I’m currently at school finishing up my degree in Psychology. My plan is to complete my MA in occupational therapy and work specifically with CPTSD and developmentally-disabled patients. I'm passionate about self-care and healing, and am always exploring new ways to conduct both, for myself and others.
ST: What made you become involved with ASMR?
EW: I first became involved with ASMR as a listener, over 10 years ago. As someone who suffers with chronic anxiety, ADHD and depression, I used ASMR as a tool to help calm myself down and sleep. I'm still an avid user of this medium for self-care. Then, when I joined TikTok and saw there was an ASMR “movement” of sorts, I challenged myself to become a part of the community and "give back," after years of being a beneficiary of ASMR via YouTube.
ST: How long have you been an ASMR content producer on YouTube and TikTok?
EW: Not long. I posted my first video on TikTok while still in recovery from Covid. I’d set a goal in December of last year (2021) to finally start content-creating before the new year. And then, I got sick. Well. Once I set a deadline for myself, I'm stubbornly determined to meet it. I slapped on some makeup, dosed myself up with DayQuil and let the camera roll. Seven months and 55,000 new friends later, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.
ST: ASMR has been shown to boost relaxation, positive feelings and restful sleep. Why do you think it has become so popular?
EW: I think the rise of ASMR can be attributed to the growing emphasis on mental health awareness and self-care over the last decade or so. The field of neuroscience has exploded with discovery where healing the mind is concerned. In tandem, the relatively new concept of "neurodivergence" is fighting to be acknowledged and heard. And it’s breaking ground. People are advocating more for their individual needs, and what self-care around those needs look like. When you combine these two factors, it's not surprising that people are exploring other relaxation modalities outside of the mainstream. As we learn increasingly about the complexity of neurohealth, there has been a wave of acceptance that something like tapping sounds can be just as soothing for the mind as a round of yoga. And so, a lesser-known form of self-care has stepped into the spotlight.
ST: There are many types of ASMR “triggers.” What are some of your most often requested trigger activities on your lives?
EW: There are constantly new triggers coming out. The creativity from this community knows no bounds. The triggers that my followers request the most are bugs and makeup. ASMR that involves roleplay of any kind is a firm favorite. Adults never really get tired of playing pretend. We’re still just big kids, at heart.
ST: What are your favorite and least favorite ASMR triggers?
EW: I don't have a "least" favorite trigger for Lives, because I only do what I enjoy and what I'm comfortable with. That’s one of the empowering aspects of having my channel. It’s my little corner of cyberspace, to do as I please. For example, there are some triggers that other ASMRtists do that I won’t, because of how the wrong people tend to take them. Mic-kissing is an example. Unfortunately viewers sometimes make this inappropriate, and I don't want to give them the opportunity to do so.
My favorite trigger at the moment is probably face-tracing. It changes, though. I’ve noticed that the triggers that I gravitate towards are those that are interactive and inclusive for my audience. I love triggers that involve my viewers' participation. Something like face-tracing has my viewers drop their names in the comments, and it brings them joy and a sense of community when their name gets picked. I love giving people that experience.
ST: Some people don’t understand what ASMR is. How do you handle negative feedback?
EW: It's case by case. I have a group of amazing moderators in my Lives, who have the ability to block or mute people coming into the comments with unpleasantness. My philosophy on how I handle it? I just let it run off me. I don't claim any of their energy. I find it hard to be upset or unsettled by something a faceless stranger on the internet says to me. They just feel very abstract. Occasionally I get someone saying something that insults my capabilities as a creator, and I just have to remind myself: For every one hater, I have over 50,000 followers who stick around.
ST: It must be exhausting doing hours-long ASMR lives. How do you recharge your own energy after giving so much of your own during your live feeds?
EW: It can be draining. The best way that I recharge after being "on" for so many people, is to intentionally spend time alone and in my own energy, exclusively. This can look like drawing the blinds in my bedroom, putting on rain sounds, and sitting on my bed quietly in the dark. This can look like a long, long shower. Or a walk to my favorite park. Guided meditations are very grounding and recentering for me, so they’re a favorite tool as well. I've found that time alone is an imperative part of my self-care routine. It helps me find my way back to myself.
ST: What do you like best about doing live ASMR feeds?
EW: My favorite part is knowing that it helps my viewers. Many of them have depression, ADHD, anxiety, ASD, sleep disorders, addiction or a blend of these things. Some are new mothers just trying to get their infants to sleep. Some are stressed-out students. Some are people trying to decompress before a job interview the next day. Some are just lonely, looking for a space in which they can connect with others and make friends. My stream welcomes everyone. Nothing brings me more peace than knowing that these people are finding comfort, safety, acceptance and relaxation in a space that I’ve created.
ST: Where can people find your content?