- I'm about to try something I've never done before.
I'm Edward Scissorhands.
I'm exploring the unique world of ASMR.
And I thought, "Why not try to create an ASMR video myself?"
I got water on the lens.
But before I make my own video, it's probably a good idea to talk to some professionals.
(fingernails tapping) - Soft brush.
- [Josef] How do these videos make you feel?
(popcorn crunching) Relaxed?
- Okay, do you like it?
- [Josef] These videos are designed to create ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, a soothing and tingly feeling in the brain and body.
And while these visual and audio triggers might seem weird to some, they're the draw for a growing online subculture.
When I first discovered ASMR online, I thought it was really strange, and it gave me the tingles.
But what I didn't know at the time is that the ASMR community is an online support system, even a family for people struggling with stress and sleep issues.
(romantic accordion music) - Hello.
- [Josef] This is Karlson, one of many converted ASMR fans and creators.
He started by making comedy videos on YouTube.
Actually, his first ever ASMR video was more of a prank.
(Karlson breathing rapidly) But his viewers were so enthralled by how soothing his voice was, they requested serious ASMR only videos.
And from there, his reputation as an ASMR creator took off.
(fingers tapping palette) How did you go from doing ASMR prank videos to doing ASMR real videos?
- Well, basically, when I kept doing the parodies, the times where I actually was talking or doing real ASMR, I got a lot of comments on that, specifically.
(finger taps syringe) (water squirts) - Looks fine to me, so.
- Were people commenting on those prank videos being like, "Oh, I wish that these weren't a prank.
I wish that we just had these videos without the prank part."
- [Karlson] Yeah.
It was a lot of that.
- I'm curious, what's your perspective of ASMR?
- I thought a lot of it was weird, certain videos that I was exposed to.
Until I had to, you know, actually get into it and see that there's so many videos and it's not weird.
(mischievous music) - I remember finding ASMR videos back in high school.
I experienced ASMR myself, and I remember the tingly sensation catching me off guard.
The first ASMR videos were uploaded to YouTube in 2009, but they weren't called ASMR back then.
They were called whisper videos.
ASMR wasn't coined until a year later in 2010 by Jennifer Allen who started a Facebook group to create a community where people could discuss their ASMR experiences.
But ASMR videos aren't for everyone.
Some people find the triggers really irritating, especially the mouth sound.
(cracker crunching) Because the awareness of ASMR is so new, the science hasn't caught up yet to the intense curiosity about it.
But understanding the hard science isn't necessary for ASMR to be beneficial for a huge group of people.
There's even unintentional or accidental ASMR videos.
That's a genre where the creator didn't intend to create ASMR, but the audience frequently experiences it from the videos anyway.
- We don't make mistakes.
We have happy accidents.
- [Josef] YouTube continues to be the major place that members of the ASMR community enjoy videos by creators called ASMRtists.
- Welcome, one and oh.
- [Josef] Rea Moon has been an ASMRtist since 2019.
She began producing ASMR videos more consistently after retiring from her job as a teacher.
Do you think being a teacher helps you now as an ASMR artist?
Especially teachers that teach younger students because, you know, it's so hard to keep their interest and then if it's not working, you move on.
(laughs) - Your eyebrows are so think I can use a comb.
- Yeah, I don't know if I've totally gotten over the strange factor of it.
- I think some people still have that.
They don't even want to tell people that they watch you, you know?
- So you're saying that a lot of people might feel shame about it or be shy about the fact that they watch ASMR.
- That they'll be made fun of, maybe, you know?
- Did you experience that when you got into ASMR with your friends and family?
- (laughs) No, but I did not tell my extended family.
And my brother actually called me up on the phone and said, he was whispering.
He says, "Hey, Rea Moon, this is your brother."
And he says, "I was worried about you."
But then he says, "I found out that you're helping people."
Get in a relaxing position.
- [Josef] For people who experience the physical sensation of ASMR, these videos often help ease stress and aid falling asleep.
Heloisa is one of Rea Moon's biggest fans.
She found Rea on YouTube and was drawn to her motherly, loving energy.
What made you wanna watch ASMR videos?
- I have insomnia since I was a kid.
You know, it's crazy how only a video and sounds can make you sleep better.
And it really helps me.
- Can you tell me about how you discovered Rea Moon and why you like her videos?
- Around the time that I found out about her videos, I was being diagnosed with a chronic illness.
So I was going through a lot of anxiety and stress.
You know, real life can be hard sometimes, so when I found her channel and I saw the mom role-plays.
- I'm so excited.
It's your first office Christmas party.
And I get to do your makeup.
- [Heloisa] You see in the comments that a lot of people feel that way too.
You see people saying that they didn't have this mother figure in their lives.
- Man, I have to say, I love the new dress you got.
- Even from far away, you know, she really helped me to move on with things.
- Please send me a Snapchat or an Instagram story, okay?
'Cause I wanna see how much fun you're having.
- [Josef] Some of the most popular ASMR videos are role-plays like this.
- Please, if you need me, gimme a call, okay?
And Uber home.
- [Josef] People outside the community might not get it.
But the community itself is uniquely supportive.
In a world where spreading hate online is common, ASMR is an anomaly, a little island of positivity.
- I would consider it one of those neighborhoods that everyone knows each other.
So whether that be creators or people in the comments section finding another commenter.
I've seen it so many times.
- What misunderstandings do you think people have about ASMR in general?
- A huge one is that it's adult content.
- [Josef] A research study found that only 5% of viewers watch ASMR for sexual stimulation.
The majority of ASMR is intimate, but it's not sexual.
(mouth popping) - You know, when you see it on shows, they will make it, you know, they'll sexualize it.
You know, on the whole, it's not adult content.
A lot of times people don't even tell, you know, their families that they're doing ASMR because it is so misunderstood.
- Y'all wanna see me braid?
- I've gotten uncomfortable messages or DMs or emails or video requests to do certain things.
And that's not what I do.
Got my heart broken too many times before.
- After researching ASMR for weeks, I wanted to see if I could do it myself.
I'd love to attempt to make an ASMR video myself, but I know that I'm gonna feel goofy when I try to do it.
So do you have any tips for me?
- The way I would start is start with the triggers that you like.
Is there a trigger that you like?
- I like getting my hair washed.
- You would be a great ASMRtist.
I could just see you because you have a calming voice, as well.
- I appreciate that.
My friend Vinny owns a hair salon.
So I gave him a call to see if he'd let me borrow it for the afternoon.
(romantic accordion music) Put this wrap around you.
We'll get you a brand new haircut.
(groans) I'm so awkward.
(laughs) Okay, what do we have here?
(water running) (Josef laughs) Gotta get you and this hair salon dried off 'cause I spilled water everywhere.
(comb rubs against mic) All right, let's do your bangs.
That's the hardest part.
(scissors snipping) They look terrible.
I can't do this.
This is so hard.
Rea Moon, how do you do this?
Trying to make an ASMR video myself was really, really hard.
I couldn't get over how awkward I felt trying to talk quietly in my camera.
I have so much respect for these artists who are able to connect a community through these hard-to-make videos.
- I hope you like it, too.
- Everyone can find something that they like, you know?
From role-plays to washing your hair.
It has the potential to grow.
(fingers tapping palette) - [Josef] Wherever ASMR is headed in the future, it seems the global phenomena will continue to reach even larger audiences.
It could become just another tool in the toolbox of relaxation techniques, like yoga, meditation, or calming music.
Maybe sometime soon, it won't be a phenomenon at all, but just another way we regularly unwind.
Thanks for watching our episode about ASMR.
But before you go, I wanna tell you about a new PBS Digital Studios channel called PBS Origins.
And if you're a history buff, I know you're gonna love it.
The channel will be home to multiple shows, including a new series called "Historian's Take."
The show explores history through the lens of pop culture, examining what that culture can tell us about its time period, and what it means for our future.
PBS Origins will have even more new stuff on the way.
So hit the link in the description, and don't forget to subscribe so that you don't miss a thing.