Initially, for my final project, I planned on researching the effect food delivery apps had on the grocery store industry. Specifically, I would look at apps like Instacart and Postmates. After thinking more about my project, however, I decided to focus on a topic that was more applicable to my own life.
At the beginning of my second semester of freshman year at Emory, I broke my knee and had to get a reconstructive surgery that put me on crutches for the rest of the year. Following this surgery, I later found out that I had a rare connective tissue disorder that caused joint instability and dislocations. Discovering that I had a rare disorder was a freeing moment because it allowed me to understand pain and dislocations that I had experienced for years. It also acted as a trigger for me to place more focus on my personal wellness.
Growing up, I had always been interested in healing crystals and meditation. I used them as methods of stress relief, relaxation, and introspection. My diagnosis prompted me to reengage my interest as well as research different forms of holistic medicine and wellness practices as ways to alleviate daily pain. While searching online, I came across guided meditation videos on YouTube. These videos proved an effective way for me to release tension in my joints and recenter at the end of the day. Through these videos I came across a subsection of YouTube I had never heard about before–ASMR. Curious, I watched one of these videos and found that they were a different form of relaxation videos.
My initial reaction to ASMR was confusion and also a feeling of unease. After sifting through one of the top accounts, however, I discovered that these videos covered a wide variety of topics, including, meditation, sounds only, and more. Out of curiosity I began to Google search “ASMR” and found numerous articles written on the topic. News sources from the Washington Post to Rolling Stone had written about the videos.
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and the videos are meant to inspire relaxation and head “tingles”. I continued to watch guided meditation ASMR videos and found that they succeeded in producing feelings of calm.
Following my discovery of ASMR the summer after my freshman year, it has transformed into a cultural phenomenon. ASMR videos have appeared on my Facebook feed, Instagram discovery page, and suggested YouTube videos. Different iterations of the trend have also arose. For example, “slime” videos have become increasingly popular on Instagram with follower counts reaching into the millions.
As of today, when I searched ASMR accounts on YouTube, the most popular channel, ASMR Darling, has over 1.4 million subscribers. It is clear that ASMR resonates with a large population. When I did an informal survey of friends on their opinion of ASMR, many expressed feelings of discomfort by the whispering in the videos. There was a sizable portion, however, who commented that they find them relaxing and had been watching them as a way to destress and fall asleep. What was most interesting to me was that everyone I asked had at least some exposure to ASMR. No one needed it explained to them and everyone had at least some baseline knowledge. This signaled that ASMR was woven into the digital popular culture.
For my project, I am going to research the origins of ASMR as well as what effect on the brain these videos have. ASMR on a whole is divisive. People seem to either find it incredibly relaxing or are uncomfortable. I believe that these conflicting opinions will lead an engaging topic and project.
I chose this topic because ASMR is an example of how deeply technology and digital media reach into daily life. Technology is interwoven into life so much that people rely on it as a way to fall asleep and relax. Into the future, it will be fascinating to observe how digital wellness trends like ASMR transform with changing technology.