Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR is a term coined in early 2010 and refers to the physical sensation of “static” or tingling on the skin that generally originates on the scalp and moves along the spine to other parts of the body. ASMR is subjectively described as “low-grade euphoria,” which results in physical and emotional pleasure. Responses are brought on by stimuli referred to as ASMR “triggers.”
ASMR triggers commonly include specific, non-threatening acoustic or visual stimuli or a combination of the two. Triggers may be initiated internally (imagined) or externally (tactile, visual, or audio stimuli). Typically, stimuli are repetitive, methodical, gentle, and kept at a very low volume. Examples of triggers are soft whispering, mouth sounds, slowly rubbing hands together, crinkling paper, or quiet noises caused by mundane tasks such as turning pages, clipping nails, or writing with a pencil. Audiovisual “role play” with a person performing a task is another popular source for triggering sounds.
ASMR triggers in audio, visual, and audiovisual formats abound on the internet, including an entire Subreddit devoted to ASMR links. Thousands of YouTube channels are devoted solely to posting content that will induce ASMR. The “ASMRtists” will perform simulated ASMR role play directly to the camera as though giving the audience gentle “personal attention,” such as a haircut, medical exam, or a spa treatment. Some ASMR video creators utilize binaural recording techniques, which simulate a three-dimensional environment, eliciting the sensation of intimate proximity to the vocalist. Thus, the performer creates an audiovisual, haptic experience for the viewer through simulated attentiveness, and this may produce an ASMR response.
The ASMR community purports that Autonomous Sensory Meridian Responses are largely non-sexual in nature; rather, the ASMR are calming, relaxing, or meditative. The purpose of ASMR is ostensibly relaxation and stress reduction. Due to the positive, euphoric effects of ASMR, some may even seek triggers to reduce insomnia, anxiety, panic disorders, and depression.
Little scientific research has been done on the effectiveness or harm of ASMR, as it is very difficult to study such a subjective phenomenon and provide empirical evidence. Not every person has the ability to experience ASMR, and even those who do may report differing responses to various stimuli.
To use ASMR for relaxation, quiet meditation, or better mental health would not be wrong. It is not sinful to take pleasure in a beautiful sight or sound. ASMR is not illegal, nor is it inherently good or bad, although it does have certain mental and physical effects. However, ASMR has great potential for misuse.
The general ASMR community claims a non-sexual, non-pornographic goal, yet a large subculture exists that uses ASMR to elicit sensations of sexual gratification. Even ASMR terminology uses “brain orgasm” or AIHO (Attention-Induced Head Orgasm) and AIE (Attention-Induced Euphoria) to label the experience. Christians must be vigilant in the use of their time (1 Corinthians 10:31), maintenance of sobriety (Ephesians 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:4–8), and avoidance of indulgent pleasure for pleasure’s sake alone, especially in preserving sexual purity (1 Corinthians 6:18–20).
Hedonistic self-indulgence is a slippery slope toward egocentricity at best (1 Timothy 5:6) or, at worst, pleasure/porn addiction (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5; Proverbs 21:1a). The Bible is clear that we are not to be “mastered” by anything (2 Peter 2:19; 1 Corinthians 6:12), and an addiction to ASMR falls into this category. Christians must remember that their bodies are living temples of the Holy Spirit; we must run away from sexual immorality and toward glorifying God (1 Corinthians 6:18–20).
Scripture says we need to exercise discernment about what is beneficial or constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23). Is it possible to use audiovisual stimuli to induce ASMR to God’s glory? Is ASMR beneficial or constructive in your life and faith? Does it make you more like Jesus? The enemy’s goal is deception, and he will use whatever means necessary to throw believers off the goal of glorifying God (1 Peter 5:8). Believers must be watchful and discerning about what influences they allow to drive the mind and body.