ASMR content has been around for years, most of it hosted on YouTube. The acronym stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, and content in the category generally features creators, or ASMRtists, speaking softly into a microphone, pretending to put makeup on a viewer, directing a viewer’s attention to focus them, or anything, really; a signature ASMR video emphases soothing visuals and soft noises or sound effects (think gentle crackling, fizzing, or scraping), and aficionados love them for the physical and mental sensations they purportedly elicit.
On YouTube, these videos can go on for hours—but like so much else, bite-sized versions of the trend have found a new audience on TikTok.
What is ASMR, really?
Luna Bloom, a 26-year-old creator and ASMRtist with 1 million followers on TikTok and 283,000 subscribers on YouTube, explains ASMR like this: It’s “the feeling you experience when consuming ASMR content, rather than the content itself. It’s described as a tingling sensation, oftentimes on the back of the head or down the spine, and/or a trance-like state, that usually helps to alleviate anxiety, insomnia, and the like.”
Bloom says she’d experienced the feelings her whole life, but didn’t have a name for them until 2013, when she, like so many others, “found out someone had given a name to this feeling, and even better, that people were making videos with the purpose of inducing [it].”
What do ASMR videos on TikTok usually feature?
On Bloom’s account, you can find clips of her calmly directing you to look at various objects or miming doing your makeup, and there’s plenty more where that came from: The app’s #ASMR tag has 171.2 billion views. Some of the ASMRtists responsible for the videos that generate those views eat on camera, some of them speak quietly to their audience, some of them organize their workspaces, and some of them mimic “plucking” stressors from viewers by gesturing toward their camera. The content types are seemingly endless, so you’ll be able to find almost any niche you’re looking for.
The difference between ASMR content on TikTok and YouTube, of course, is length and style. This summer, the app bumped up the time allowance per video, giving creators three full minutes instead of one. Still, that’s nothing compared to the time allotments on YouTube, so instead of full-length reenactments of a trip to the salon, you might find TikTok ASMRtists only miming giving you a brief trim. These videos are also designed for mobile-first consumption, so they’ll almost always be vertically oriented and are likely to have been filmed on a phone.
There is a dedicated TikTok ASMR crowd, and while Bloom says she’s noticed some app users subsequently find their way to her YouTube, “they’re still largely separate audiences.” TikTok, then, gives newer ASMRtists a chance to grow and explore while giving more established, YouTube-based creators an opportunity to expand into new territory.
“The benefits have been amazing,” Bloom says. “It’s broadened my audience, it’s boosted my creativity, and it’s allowed me to make short form videos when I want to pop out an idea that I may not have thought of a full length video for yet.
Bloom says her YouTube audience tends to be more familiar with ASMR, and it’s exciting for her to find newcomers on TikTok who are just learning about the content.
Nicole Villaneuva, a 28-year-old makeup artist, says she loves “ASMR anything” and was excited to find short versions of the videos when she joined TikTok in July of 2019.
“It’s shorter and it plays in a loop as opposed to YouTube videos, which can be upwards of an hour long,” Villaneuva says. “I get a lot of tingles and goosebumps from the sounds. It’s a really calming feeling and often helps me sleep.”
What can you expect to find on the app?
“I would love for more people to discover their love for ASMR, and I think the platform is a really great space for that,” Bloom says. She points to ASMR content’s ability to, “give people a mental break while scrolling that doesn’t feel like you’ve hit pause on a good time.”
TikTok, she notes, is a destination for people who are looking to chill out and be distracted for a little while, so ASMR content can sometimes “feel abrupt” when it comes after a series of funny clips. Bloom’s goal in creating the content for the short-form app is, “to meet people where they’re at and still allow them to benefit from that sense of calm.”
The sense of calm is one of the main points of the whole thing, so pay attention to how you feel when watching certain kinds of videos. If a mukbang—or a video of someone consuming a bunch of food, often complete with smacking and chewing sounds—doesn’t do it for you, try personal attention ASMR content or look for creators who make texture-based sounds by scratching or striking items. The ASMR sensation is typically described as a brain-tingling feeling, so look for something that produces that. Don’t worry: There are so many options on the app that you’re bound to find something that features just the perfect trigger.
Villaneuva says she’s most into compilation videos that combine a variety of triggers, including scratching, brushing, tapping, and typing. (If you’re looking for a few recommendations, she suggests starting with @serenity11117asmr and @sassyselenaa.)
“I want to note that ASMR can be experienced outside of ASMR content,” Bloom says. “Whether that be in a real life situation or in a video that was not made with the purposes of inducing ASMR. If that happens to you, I say embrace it, it’s pretty cool! And it might teach you something about the kinds of things that put your mind at ease.”
She suggests newcomers to this type of content start by searching for one of their own interests and adding “ASMR” to the end. From “gardening ASMR” to “video games ASMR,” there are plenty to choose from.
How can you maximize your ASMR experience?
To get the most out of theASMR content you find, Bloom says, you should keep an open mind. Understand that you and your triggers are unique, so what works for your best friend or sibling might not work for you. It’s okay to take some time searching for just the right content.
“Also, as much as it’s become more mainstream, it is still pretty new and niche, and that can come with a lot of backlash,” she cautions. “If you feel a little bit hesitant —or embarrassed— while you’re exploring, lean in to that, and know that that feeling makes sense… when [trying] something new. It’s all good.”