When I was quite young, I became aware that certain kinds of voices had a special effect on me. It usually happened when someone was explaining something, or engaging in a detailed technical discussion about something. The subject didn’t matter. The feeling that overwhelmed me was exceedingly pleasant. It usually started as a tingling at the base of my neck, and then spread down my arms and spine and through my legs until I felt nearly paralyzed. Not in a panicky way, but in a sleepy, pleasant kind of way. Because I noticed this for the first time when my mother and another woman were discussing fabric, I thought for the longest time that this was the effect fabric had on me. Eventually, I realized it happened regardless of what was being discussed, or who was doing the discussing. As long as the voice was soft, and the subject at hand was being discussed in detail, it happened.
This particular feeling is like the feeling of cold: it’s impossible to explain to someone who has never felt it. It’s not the simple relaxation that comes from listening to relaxing sounds, like waves on the beach. It’s much different than that, a genuine physical sensation that is not in the slightest sexual, but is definitely physical in some way. In school, it actually worked against me. Whenever the teacher was droning on about something, I wouldn’t just get bored. I would actually become so distracted by this feeling that it was impossible for me to retain anything.
When I mentioned this to a couple of friends at around age sixteen, they had no idea what I was talking about. For the next twenty-five years I would believe that I was some kind of freak. It wasn’t until I was nearly forty years old that I realized other people experienced this sensation, and that it was a physiological–perhaps even a neurological–condition with a name: Auto-Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR. I learned this on the same site I’ve learned nearly everything lately: Reddit.com.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Reddit, it’s that I am not nearly as unique as I thought I was. It turns out there are tens of thousands of Reddit users who also experience this feeling, which means that the total number of ASMR people in the world is probably in the tens of millions. They even have their own subreddit, where they post videos that stimulate the ASMR response. Some of them are classified as Intentional, which means they are created by people–called ASMRtists–who are deliberately trying to evoke the response in their audience. Others are tagged as Unintentional, which means the video was posted by a person who simply thought he or she was explaining something to an audience who was interested in the subject matter, and ended up as an unwitting party to what some people have called “headgasms”. (I don’t like that term myself, because again, there is nothing sexual about this sensation.)
Personally, I don’t care for the intentional videos, as they don’t seem to work on me. The sole exception to this is a Russian woman named Maria, who has made entire videos of herself folding towels and explaining each tiny detail in a voice that is guaranteed to send me right over the edge into utter paralysis. If I’m ever having trouble sleeping, all I need to do is visit Maria for a few minutes, and I’m out like a light.
For the most part, though, I prefer the unintentional videos. Women discussing crafts have always acted on me like an anaesthetic. One woman, whose name is Christine, has a blog called Scrap Time, which is devoted to the somnolent art of scrapbooking. Here Christine explains how to fold paper into boxes, how to mix paint into something called crackle, and how to insert pictures into plastic sleeves. Bliss. For the past several weeks, I’ve watched one or two of her videos on my phone every night before drifting off. My wife thinks I’m crazy. Christine would probably think I’m crazy, too, or at least mildly creepy. But I assure you I’m neither. It’s just that I’m unique, along with tens of millions of other special snowflakes just like me.
My favorite discovery recently has been the work of an Indian blogger whose YouTube username is K Prasanth. Mr. Prasanth has exactly the kind of voice that is guaranteed to produce a full-blown ASMR reaction in me: soft, with a foreign accent (interestingly, this tends to increase the effect), and in no hurry whatsoever. He discusses in great detail things that ordinarily I would have no interest in. Mr. Prasanth is a product reviewer, and the products he chooses to review tend to be the kind of ultra-cheap, Chinese-made items we would find in North American dollar stores here and might use once or twice before throwing away.
I have never in my life met anyone who takes dollar store items as seriously as Mr. Prasanth does. He has an appreciation for every tiny detail of each item he reviews: electric beard trimmers, plastic toys, stuffed olives, magic pens. “Nice one. Check it out,” he comments at the end of each and every video. He loves things that appear to him to have a unique or high-quality design, and he seems to have a special fondness for two categories: anything that has a pen or a light built into it (preferably both); and anything related to computer or mobile phone technology.
My favorite Prasanth review, however, has to be the one called Glass Decanter. In it, he waxes eloquent on the various merits of a cheap cut-glass decanter he bought for a few dollars somewhere–in India, presumably–simply because he thought it looked pretty. In his description of the video, he writes: “This Glass Decanter is so beautiful, its more than just a pretty piece of glass. Its more about what it stands for, saving it for later, not having everything right away. Save it for later this keep remind us of that etc.” Prasanth then helpfully informs us: “It costs Rs 300, or $6.”
I love it that an item which would appear to me hardly worth noticing inspires such feeling in this man, who comes across as gentle, unassuming, and genuinely interested in providing helpful information to his fellow internet users. That he can draw a life lesson from an examination of a glass decanter strikes me as a kind of wisdom that is lacking in my life, and perhaps in our entire throwaway culture, which doesn’t value Chinese-made dollar store items nearly this highly, in my experience. And the fact that Mr. Prasanth’s voice seems to quiet whatever brain waves would otherwise prevent me from sleeping on a regular basis is deeply appreciated. Thank you, Mr. Prasanth. May your blog receive a million hits a day, and may you review products for a thousand years.
To visit him on the web: Prasanthblog.com