I am fully aware that it has been a while since I posted any kind of travel log. Worse, my website has in recent months devolved from outright travel blog to a collection of think pieces on the weird and nutty.

Thanks Manoli’s.

Our Savior.

In an effort to stay the course, I thought it was best for me to try and combine these two pursuits. Hence, last night, I decided to undertake a more ethereal journey. I dived headfirst into the world of ASMR videos.

It’s a journey of some kind.

Though what kind I am yet to figure out myself.

For the uninitiated, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Despite sounding like an REM B-Side album, it is actually an observed phenomenon where people experience a tingling sensation in the scalp and spine accompanied by a feeling of relaxation and peace. Imagine having fingernails gently dragged through your hair with the resultant gooseflesh, then you would have an inclination of what ASMR is.

The weird part is, this sensation can be activated through a combination of audio/visual stimuli. Understandably it is best to solicit this autonomic response through touch, but when I last checked, videos of Riley Reid can’t touch me…

… yet.

The strange thing is that these ASMR video’s on sharing platforms are huge. The more popular ones have in excess of four million views a piece meaning that some youtubers earn their crust tickling microphones. I must confess that if I was given the option to tell my parents what I did for a living between making ASMR videos and bear proctology, I would arrive to Sunday lunch with hair glued to my palms.

Just out of shot would be my hand.

There is no doubt another follow-up article is to be had on what the popularity of these videos say of our ever-imploding society. But right now, I just want to get some stuff out of my system after what I saw last night.

The first video I found was no less than three hours long. The performer(?) had set up a dedicated studio, complete with shimmering curtains and a disco-mannequin head in the middle. The head was covered with a transparent umbrella. Those were all sentences which I did not make up. Within the head was a highly sensitive stereoscopic microphone.

Then the show began.

Picture the scene: I am in my tracksuit pants, half-absorbed into the fatty-folds of my couch. The video starts. As is (apparently) customary, there is a preview of all the sensory wonders I am about to have. Highlights include wiping shaving foam off of an umbrella, earbuds excavating silicone orifices, nails tapping on disco-mannequin’s face and many more. There is no noise, other than the bubbling, scraping, swishing and caressing that is happening on screen. My body has no bloody idea what to do with itself.

I willfully try and get lost in the feeling of relaxed euphoria which I believe is meant to happen. As the well-groomed hands transition from spraying the umbrella to gently shaking little bottles of water, I close my eyes in an attempt to let the surround sound do its job. She proceeded to gently shake the bottles around the microphone. Though initially soothing, the effect did not last. All it sounded like was a sweating, obese man trying to wank his way out of a stroke.

Next she poured shaving cream on an umbrella and gently massaged it. Sweet Heavens. The sound of foam gliding on the nylon surface did something to my brain’s chemistry. My body didn’t know whether to sleep, nurse a purple-urgent or outright void itself out of pure relaxation. I had been taken on a whirlwind of auditory triggers, each one twisting my brain into more confusion. The last time there was that much foam, Ron Jeremey was having his prostate checked by a doctor using the whole hand.

There were many casualties.

At three hours long, and having more glitter props than a unicorn sex dungeon, you would be forgiven for believing this was an experimental music video by The Flaming Lips.

the video made me considerably more tense. At this realization I decided to stop watching.

However, I very quickly realized that there was a whole gamut of ASMR videos. The one I had watched was probably the least strange. A three hour long Flaming Lips music video proxy was the least strange ASMR video available on YouTube. This is deeply unsettling. There is a woman who eats edible hairbrushes and champagne bottles. She does this with relish and sincerity. Others slurp noodles or fry steaks. One man massages earlobes. It almost feels like gateway fetishism. For every weird “trigger” a person may have there is an ASMR video that caters for it. For this reason I have to make an uncomfortable comparison:

These videos are basically family friendly Pornography.  

A lot of the presenters are attractive women (with the odd dude thrown in). It is obvious that there is an element of titillation accompanied by the alleged therapy they offer. At the end of the day, our genitals are the most reliable compasses for our consumer habits. It is only natural and fair to wish good luck to those who are making this kind of entertainment. I want to make it clear that I am not against regulated pornography or people who use their looks as a means of income (no matter the method). I think in this day and age we need to accept that we are still driven by primal urges which continue to inform our buying habits. Instead of a ludditic response, we should just accept it and do our best to protect those who would otherwise be exploited by a very easily exploitable industry.

But I digress.

ASMR videos appear to be another natural response to who people are when nobody is watching. I do sincerely believe I would be embarrassed if I was found with one of them open on my desktop. I will concede that this is a fiercely subjective response though the objectively bizarre nature of these videos does make me question what other forms of media are lurking out there helping people with their triggers.

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