My YouTube recommendations are weird — usually ranging from videos like “How to cut your own bangs” to “Princess Diana’s death conspiracy theories.” A new suggestion hit my algorithm this week, “✂️Sleep-inducing Haircut?.” And I regret clicking.
The video begins with a blond-haired girl seemingly whispering directly at me: “Hello, welcome to my hair salon. I’m going to be taking care of you.”
I thought it was a joke until she started to touch my face. Her whispers and asthmatic breathing made me anxious, and then furious. Despite feeling utterly bewildered, I couldn’t peel myself away from the screen.
Her torture continued in the form of more questions: “Is this your first time in my salon? I promise that I will be careful.”
The intimacy of the video was unsettling. This was clearly a very dark corner of YouTube, but I was already 20 minutes in too deep.
What is ASMR?
Despite its weirdness, this video had thousands of views and its creator had more than 1.5 million subscribers. Quite accidentally, I had stumbled upon a whole new world of YouTube — that of ASMR.
ASMR, or “autonomous sensory meridian response,” is the term for the sensation people get when they watch stimulating videos such as this one. Many people describe the feeling as “tingles” (or “head orgasms“) that run through the back of the head, neck, and, spine. For some, the feeling is deeply relaxing and can even cause them to fall asleep. This is definitely not something I experienced.
ASMR “tingles” can be triggered in a variety of ways, such as role-play, like the video I had stumbled upon. These videos usually involve seemingly personal attention and “soothing” whispers to encourage relaxation.
When researching why people enjoy these kinds of videos, I thought it might come from sexual desire — but that’s not the case. ASMR is only similar to sexual attraction in that what people like is personal to them.
Why is ASMR so creepy?
After watching “✂️Sleep-inducing Haircut?” I couldn’t shake the creepy-crawly sensation that sent shivers all over my body.
What I was feeling was the complete opposite of what I’d hope to feel, which is utter relaxation. But even 30 seconds into the video, I felt uncomfortable, and it was only a virtual haircut. I can’t imagine what an ASMR horror series would make me feel like.
I think what was most unsettling about it all was how such a personal experience could be reached through a YouTube video. The whispering made me feel a level of anger and fear more than I ever thought possible.
I find ASMR to be torturous, but for many others, the “gentle whispers” are slices of mind-blowing heaven — what the fuck. I hope I never lay eyes on the girl who gave me a digital haircut again. YouTube’s algorithms need to sort themselves out.
I don’t think I could ever personally connect to an ASMR video — and I’m going to stop trying.