Second Person Storytelling in ASMR

I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but it’s well off the normal path for this blog, so a little bit of background first.

Some people experience a pleasant tingling sensation in the head when they listen to the right trigger noises: sometimes whispering, sometimes soft clicking noises, sometimes the sound of brushing or of crumpling paper. The effect also seems to have a psychological component and arise most effectively when the listener feels they’re being personally cared for, as well.

Until the internet, presumably people with this response just assumed that they were individually weird and nothing more came of it.

Post-internet, however, the phenomenon has been named autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). There’s an inevitable reddit group dedicated to ASMR enthusiasm. You can go on YouTube and find many, many, many videos of people making ASMR-triggering noises, or whispering into the listener’s ear. Some of these are random whispers — here’s ASMR Glow whispering words such as LOLLIPOP and BUBBLE over and over again.

But because of the personal care aspect, a lot of others actually take the form of detailed skits about scenarios where someone might be looking after you or offering you some kind of assistance. Spa roleplay. Haircut roleplay. Roleplay of having a doctor clean your ears, or a therapist talk about your anxiety. What appears to be an entire subgenre of ASMR mad scientist roleplay. Softly whispered “tutorial” videos on every subject from towel-folding to the works of Carl Jung.

Phoenician Sailor does takeoffs on existing IP, like this Westworld riff or this soothing Voight-Kampf test. A handful of ASMR shows even have a bit of a twist ending: this one (by Gentle Whispering ASMR), the scenario starts out as a generic suit-fitting session, until it becomes clear that the viewer-protagonist has a specific identity. Continue reading