Just when I think I have a handle on all the weirdness life can throw out, along comes a concept that blows my feeble mind.
It was a typical weekend evening after dinner, and I was looking for something new and binge-worthy on the four streaming services available in our household. The line “follow these reporters” caught my eye as I scrolled through Netflix, so of course I had to follow up.
Oddly enough, the series is titled “Follow This.”
Featured are various reporters for BuzzFeed and some of their intriguing, unusual, niche-market stories about quirky topics – rehab for tech addicts, Amish romance, teen influencers, modesty couture and others.
For those who don’t know, BuzzFeed is, according to its website, “a global news organization providing original online reporting and video programming across the internet’s biggest platforms.” In 2021, the organization won the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. It claims to employ more than 100 journalists in 10 big cities around the world.
All that to point out that these reporters are the real deal. They are not actors, though the reporters I watched seemed very comfortable on camera.
But back to the weird concepts.
In the first episode that I watched (Part 1, episode 1), 29-year-old reporter Scaachi Koul interviewed proponents of an internet trend called “ASMR,” or autonomous sensory meridian response. I didn’t know what that meant, but I wanted to learn.
Koul’s first interview was with Maria Viktorovna, a pretty young woman who whispers, in her lovely Russian accent, into the microphone while staring into her camera with her bright eyes and perfect smile, at the same time she’s rubbing a piece of fabric or plinking the bristles on a hairbrush.
I could barely hear her (she whispers, remember?), so of course I turned up the volume. That was my first clue that this trend is probably not for me.
At first, I thought Maria might be heading off the deep end toward some kind of creepy fetish behavior, but that wasn’t it at all. It was simply creepy.
When I looked up Maria’s “Gentle Whispering” YouTube channel, I discovered she has 2.18 million subscribers. Clicking through some of her videos, I saw they had view counts from 300,000 up to 36 million – and that one was about a sleep-inducing haircut. Pardon me?
Apparently, the point of ASMR is to induce a sedative sensation by making slow moves or soft sounds on camera meant to relax the viewer. Some people are said to get warm fuzzy feelings and tingling in the spine. They “get it.”
But soft brushing and whispering aren’t the only techniques ASMR video makers use for their viewers. Some makers use tapping techniques, clicks, slurping, and crinkling paper to engage their viewers.
If you’re thinking all this is some scientific breakthrough in stress reducing psychology, think again. There is no research behind it – nothing scientific at all.
It began on the internet in about 2010 with young people who started a Facebook group for people who had stumbled onto this “complex emotional state” and wanted to connect with others who “get it.”
Koul interviewed a scientist, but all he could say was “ASMR was probably the first psychological phenomenon that was discovered by internet users rather than scientists.”
Apparently this phenomenon is gaining followers by the millions. Google’s Consumer Insights found in 2016 that there were 5.2 million ASMR videos online.
When you’re finished reading this and start your own search, know that “ASMR” is a more popular search term on Google than “candy” or “chocolate.”
Let me know if it blows your mind too.