To love is to start a revolution, believes Abi Greene, who has turned to the new phenomenon of ASMR for a source of real intimacy and unconditional love in this frantic world. Only thing is, this can only be reached through her computer screen.
Unconditional love… it’s what many sages, saints and storytellers have been talking about for years, but who’d have thought it would be making its way to us through a YouTube screen, a 3dio microphone, and hosted by an attractive stranger from the Czech republic with a title above her head reading something like ‘ASMR Face brushing and water sounds’?
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, let me explain. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it’s described as a “euphoric experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine, precipitating relaxation.” Or, as it’s more casually referred to in the ASMR community as, the ‘tingles’.
Maybe you have experienced the tingles as a child, watching Bob Ross paint a beautiful landscape, at the doctors receiving personal attention, or having someone carefully whisper something into your ear. These are just a few examples of the many triggers which induce the ASMR experience.
When I first started watching ASMR videos, I didn’t want to tell anyone about it. Afterwards I would feel slightly ashamed, as though I had just been watching porn. Though the videos certainly induce pleasurable sensations, for me they are not at all sexual. There is debate over this within the ASMR community, and if that’s your thing you can find ASMRotica videos, which will be better suited to your taste. ASMR seems to mean something slightly different to different people, but what I think is interesting about ASMR is the community it is generating, and why.
It seems that people are incredibly relieved to find that they are not alone in their ASMR experience, and that there is a whole community dedicated to its existence. It is even being used as a tool to help people suffering from anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
My favourite ASMR artist goes by the name of Olivia Kissper. I first came across her YouTube channel when I was doing some research into Ayahuasca. Her video is titled ‘Virtual Ayahuasca experience’, intrigued I clicked and found myself in tingle heaven.
Olivia Kissper’s videos offer words of wisdom, advice, and love. Pure, unconditional love. And ultimately, that’s all anyone wants, isn’t it? I think what attracts people to these videos is the feeling of quiet intimacy; such exquisite softness in what is an aggressively loud world.
Being made to feel like we are the recipients of caring, undivided attention, reminds us of being a child, of being near to our mother, or whoever was our sole carer. What is strange is that we are now using our computers as a tool to reconnect to this very human feeling.
One of the main side effects from excessive and uneducated use of the Internet will be fear of connecting with each other on a real, human level.
I could certainly be closer, and more open with the people in my life. I would love to share my innermost feelings in low whispers to my friends… but we’re usually too busy speaking really fast and reassuring each other that the mask we have on is fixed properly.
Personally, I see how my use of social media weakens my attention span, and my ability to focus on what is present and in front of me. I notice my eyes becoming greedy and impatient for stimulation.
Are our greedy eyes suppressing our ears, our hearts, our ability to feel? As I’m writing this I’m imagining a world where by some freak accident everyone loses their sense of sight… a dark world where we have to re-learn how to live by listening more intently, being still so that we can feel more powerfully, and opening our hearts to trust more courageously. The picture would become much deeper, and I imagine we would see so much more.
In Adam Curtis’ documentary, HyperNormalisation, he briefly talks about the computer programme named Eliza, a computer psychotherapist created by Joseph Weizenbaum, which was originally created to demonstrate the superficiality between man and machine. Weizenbaum was surprised, however, because a large number of people felt akin to the computer programme, and he found that what people liked most about the programme was having themselves reflected back to them, like a mirror.
Our closest relationships are our mirrors, but we are potentially becoming less clear to each other, the further away we are shifting from ourselves.
ASMR videos are a great way to reconnect to ourselves, and reset our minds back to their natural state of presence. But as the loudest, fastest civilisation in history becomes increasingly so, will our tender moments of togetherness be replaced with the safe glowing comfort of our computer screens?