From Attention Induced Head Orgasm to Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response: How ASMR Became an Internet Phenomenon
It is safe to say ASMR is now mainstream.
There are now over 14 million ASMR videos on YouTube. But where did ASMR come from? It wasn’t always a widely accepted concept. The sensation has always existed, but the name and the accompanying awareness had to begin somewhere. Below, we’ll explore the roots of ASMR’s current fame.
Before the widely accepted definition of ASMR, there was no outright mention or classification of the feeling in literature prior to 2008 (as far as we know), but this did not mean the sensation had not been discovered. Throughout history, people across the world have been unintentionally experiencing ASMR from visits to the doctor, hairdressers, dentist, school etc. and this sensation was in desperate need of a definition other than that 'weird' feeling that seemed impossible to explain.
It is widely agreed across the ASMR community that the first inkling of a definition started on SteadyHealth.com, where the user ‘okaywhatever51838’ created a thread describing the ASMR sensation.
The replies came flooding in with people describing their varied experiences. Some were curious about what this feeling was and why it felt good, while others were worried about the inexplicable tingling: ‘It feels damn good, but could it be something damaging?’.
Tingler, a participant in the forum, coined the term Attention Induced Head Orgasm, this gave birth to the website aiho.org, however, the website did not gain much traffic and fizzled out after two years.
At the same time as the okaywhatever51838 thread, a group called Society of Sensationalists formed on Yahoo Groups. The group was dedicated to further exploring the sensation of what we now refer to as ASMR.
Youtube and the Rise of the Whisper Community
In 2009 whispering videos were gaining popularity on YouTube, inspiring WhisperingLife to create her channel dedicated to this niche, which in turn inspired many other channels to open including: Danishvog, Zarlondb, Whispersister, Thewhisperingvoice. The whisper community was born.
The phrase ASMR had not yet been established and WhisperingLife was paving the way by unintentionally triggering viewers with doodling, pet show and tells and typing sounds. With time, more creators would spring up, the number increasing exponentially each year.
In 2010, a participant of the okaywhatever51838 thread, Jennifer Allen, a health care manager, encouraged other participants to conduct more research on the feeling so Andrew MacMuiris created The Unnamed Feeling blog. It is through discussion on this blog that the term Attention Induced Observant Euphoria was coined, however, the term AIOE did not stick for long and Andrew himself mentioned that many other terms could also be used to describe the feeling.
In 2010, Jennifer Allen coined the term Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.
Jennifer wished to make the term sound objective, clinical, and unrelated to anything sexual. She was very active and enthusiastic about ASMR and this further helped spread the term as the go-to phrase for the sensation. She created a website titled ASMR research as well as a Facebook group with the phrase. She would also go on to create the official ASMR Facebook group later.
ASMR started to gain traction from 2010 onwards, after Jennifer’s activity. Along with many new YouTube channels proudly boasting the term in their channel names and descriptions.
The ASMR subreddit was created in 2011. The Wikipedia page was also created in 2011 and edited heavily by Jennifer. This page also remains today. Notably Wikipedia threatened to remove the ASMR page, though community feedback caused it to remain and it was reinstated in 2013.
It’s an exciting time for ASMR. The community has been rapidly evolving, not just creatively, but in science and academia too. Here are some noteworthy events:
Stephen Novella, a renowned neurologist, creates a blog post about ASMR
Braingasm launches, an ASMR documentary
ASMR studies continue, including: Brain tingles: First study of its kind reveals physiological benefits of ASMR and The relationship between ASMR and music induced frisson
ASMR is now a field of interest for studies, not just for fans and hobbyists.
Did you enjoy learning about the origins of ASMR? Humanity discovers brand new concepts all the time. It’s not all about technological advancement.
If you tried to describe ASMR two decades ago, people may have given you a funny look and yet today we find ourselves stumbling upon ASMR even if we aren’t looking for it! The very site you’re reading this on would have never existed if it wasn’t for the people who stepped up and shared their experiences with what we now call The ASMR Community.