As It Happens

ASMR community, devoted to whispers and soft sounds, celebrates YouTube milestone

As the ASMR community marks its first YouTube account with a million subscribers, As It Happens speaks with one ASMRist about the audio phenomenon.
Lilliana creates YouTube videos on her channel Lily Whispers ASMR. (Lily Whispers ASMR/YouTube)
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Story transcript

A YouTube community dedicated to gentle whispers and soft sounds is celebrating a milestone, after one of its most popular celebrities hit one million subscribers.

A Russian-American woman named Maria, known on YouTube as Gentle Whispering ASMR, hit the one-million mark last week, calling it "a big, big moment for all of us."

"People are spreading the good word and its so amazing," Lilliana, who posts videos under the name Lily Whispers ASMR, told As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay. "It's incredible to see how much the community has grown."

Maria, a.k.a. Gentle Whispering ASMR, just surpassed one million subscribers on YouTube. (Gentle Whispering ASMR/YouTube)

ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response — a phenomenon in which people report feeling a pleasant tingle down their spine or the back of their head triggered by whispering voices and other soft sounds.

If you've ever entered a relaxed state or a experienced a tingling sensation when someone plays with your hair or whispers in your ear — that's ASMR.

Lilliana, a Pittsburgh-based YouTuber who asked that her last name not be used, said she discovered ASMR about five years ago in a video recommendation by generated by YouTube's algorithm. 

"I watched one and I was getting anxiety my freshmen year of college, as oftentimes people do, and I fell asleep and I felt so calm and relaxed," she said. "I was like, 'You know what? This is cool.' And I started to make my own."

Today, she she has more than 150,000 subscribers and some of her individual videos have been viewed more than a million times.

"It works and I strongly believe that it works," she said. 

Most ASMR videos feature an "ASMRist" — usually a woman, but not always — speaking in soft whispers.

Other videos are dedicated more to gentle sounds, like hair brushing, gum chewing, nail tapping or paper crinkling.

And a lot of videos are centred around role play, painting a scene where the viewer can pretend, for example, that they're at a spa or a salon.

"One of my most popular videos .... I pretend to be a big sister doing somebody's makeup and that was really well received on my channel," Lilliana said. 

Asked if there's a sexual element to the role play, Lilliana said it's really all about comfort.

"It comes off as a little bit creepy just because of the nature of whispering, but when it comes down to it, you can sexualize anything," she said.

But perhaps her biggest draw to ASMR is being part of a tight-knit online community, she said

"​Oh, it's grown so much, but everyone's really close and supportive. We all support each other. We tweet each other, we email each other, we're constantly collaborating and trying new things," she said. "It's really cool."

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