Parasocial Relationships Part 1: From ASMR to AoE2

Michael J. Vowles
8 min readJun 26, 2021

For the past 3 years, I’ve been using ASMR to help me get to sleep every night. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced the tingly skin-orgasm that you’re supposed to get when consuming ASMR. For me it’s just something generally relaxing that I’ve now gotten used to and can’t imagine doing without. It’s kinda like white noise, the same way certain people find it easier to sleep if there’s a nearby fan making a constant whirring sound. Total silence can be distracting. Therefore, the brand of ASMR I listen to is very specific; I don’t like ones where the ASMRtist is speaking in coherent sentences, or worse when they’re acting out a character in a scene. The role play videos are a big no-go for me. If someone is talking, then I’m listening to what they are saying, my brain follows the train of thought, becomes active, and I can’t sleep.

The ASMR videos I watch are exclusively ones where the ASMRtist makes repetitious, pleasant sounds, such as unintelligible whispers (the closer to the mic the better), brushing the mic, scratching the mic, applying lip gloss or chapstick, blowing on the mic, crinkling noises (newspapers, book pages, etc), bubble-wrap, finger-fluttering, nails tapping on various hard surfaces (my favorite being teeth), or the wet mouth-sounds they make with their lips (popping, tongue-clicking, et cetera). I particularly like it when the ASMRtist layers the sounds, imbuing the video with an echoey, hypnotic feel. There are so many triggers for me, but the one thing they all have in common is that they distract from the silence whilst also not activating my brain in any way. I’m usually asleep within minutes. But I’ve never had the blissful, overwhelming physical response that many ASMR consumers report. Maybe it’s like the Placebo Effect in my case. I just find it a vague comfort, one that’s become so routine for me, that I’d be very loathe to part from it.

When I first discovered ASMR and was trying to work out what the hell it was, I thought about the science fiction films Blade Runner 2049 and Her. I thought about the way the characters in those films developed deep, emotional relationships with artificial intelligences and figured that ASMR was the first stage of that phenomenon happening in the real world. The way the ASMRtists appeared to offer intimacy to their audiences fascinated…

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Michael J. Vowles

Freelance writer, occasional traveler, full-time ice cream taster. I run a blog at https://tumbleweedwrites.com where I ramble with enthusiasm.