- ASMR videos create pleasurable feelings through sensory triggers, like stroking a microphone.
- A new subgenre does the same thing while being offensive or mean to viewers for comedic effect.
- Viewers and Experts Explain Why “Mean ASMR” Videos Can Create an Enhanced Experience.
“Could you please not knock over my things? Can’t you be such a jerk for once in your life?” Kate Henderson whispers to her viewers in a 17-minute YouTube track titled “ASMR – B*tchy friend does your makeup.” Since posting in 2016, her video has received over 1.5 million views.
Henderson’s video is one of the first in the genre that has come to be known as “mean ASMR.” It’s a variation on the YouTube trend ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR videos aim to bring a viewer into near-relaxation by overlaying various “triggers” or sensory stimuli designed to activate a calming response in your brain, or produce what viewers sometimes describe as “tingling”.
The “triggers” performed in these videos are often soft whispers, caresses, or particularly evocative sounds, like tapping on a metal water bottle. Researchers at Northumbria University in England found in a 2018 study that watching ASMR can lower some people’s heart rate in a way that is comparable to relaxation methods such as
and music-based therapy.
The mean ASMR RPG trend is the newest iteration of the genre and includes videos where the creators are mean or rude to the viewer. While somewhat counter-intuitive, they’re hugely popular – a Google search for “mean ASMR RPG” returns over 200,000 results, and the videos can amass hundreds of thousands and even millions of views.
Insider spoke to creators, viewers, and experts to find out if seeing people being mean to you can really make you feel more relaxed.
Creators relish the opportunity to fuse comedy with ASMR
ASMR content creators, also known as “ASMRtists,” insiders said the opportunity for creative comedy is part of what led them to mean ASMR.
Henderson, for example, was driven to shoot her 2016 video after seeing another user do a mean roleplay and, confused, clicked on it.
“I thought it was hilarious,” says Henderson. “The entertainment factor is enormous.” She told Insiders that the ASMR aspect often feels like the “light part” of the video for her, which allows her to focus more on perfecting the entertainment side of the content.
Trevor Weiskopf, an ASMRtist named Dean ASMR, known for his over-the-top roleplay videos, had a similar experience. Weiskopf told Insider that his first encounter with Mean ASMR was a “bottom rated makeup artists” video, in which the creator played the role of a worker with terrible and sloppy customer service. As he watched, he said he felt the urge to try it himself — most of his videos already have a comedic element, so the transition feels natural. He started creating his own mean ASMR content in 2018 and found that many of his viewers liked the videos and commented on them more than his other videos.
Oceanna Fayant-Barz, an ASMR expert who does mean girl roleplaying games known as Oceans ASMR, told Insider that it’s “nice to be able to switch and be silly with mean ASMR,” since she’ll be messaging her viewer frequently about her issues said, can be “heavy”.
Viewers seem to connect with the lighter side of ASMR
Weiskopf and Fayant-Barz both find that their subscribers interact a lot with these cartoon roleplay videos, and often comment on the fun parts. Weiskopf told Insider that the videos’ over-the-top and “bold” nature draws viewers’ attention, and to remain successful in the ASMR space, you need to have a sense of humor.
“It’s a bit like watching a TV show,” says Weiskopf. “It’s still relaxing, but I still throw in jokes and stuff.”
Chloe Townley, who frequently watches mean ASMR videos, told Insider that she treats them as white noise or some kind of society. She explained that they make her laugh “more than anything,” but she’s also reaping the benefits of traditional ASMR.
“What specifically triggers ASMR sensibilities are the things found in other non-mean videos — the rap, the personal attention, everything,” Townley said, adding that the humorous aspect made it more enjoyable to watch.
Henderson agreed that the impact of ASMR in these videos is an integral part of the experience. “Take a mean ASMR video but eliminate the ASMR aspect so it’s just someone insulting a viewer at a normal volume level and who wants to see that?” she said.
The “stinginess” can enhance the ASMR experience, according to viewers and experts
according to dr Giulia Poerio, Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at the University of Essex, has added the element of surprise to the effects of ASMR so that someone who watches a lot of videos can become “desensitized” to its effects. But mean roleplay can help create a sense of the unexpected and help frequent ASMR users achieve more intense results.
dr Agnieszka Janik McErlean, a psychology lecturer at Bath Spa University and an ASMR researcher, hypothesized that this need for new ASMR stimuli might explain the rise in mean ASMR, which she says is popular in part because it ” “novel” and “different” is .”
Viewers also report that they find the comedic nastiness calming, which could enhance the ASMR experience.
Townley told Insider that the videos “use that part of my humor that’s very self-deprecating, but not in a way that reinforces low self-image.”
“It actually takes what I may or may not already feel bad about and turns it into something funny. It’s very transformative in that way,” she said.
Comment sections under ASMR videos are littered with viewers saying the content made them laugh while feeling relaxed.
“I was like ‘yeah, my nose is big, to be fair’ while I was about to fall asleep,” one YouTube user commented on Henderson’s first Mean ASMR roleplay video, adding, “This is hilarious and relaxing at the same time .”
Poerio told Insider that relaxing can make viewers more likely to experience ASMR feelings, and the comedic element of mean ASMR could be a crucial element in achieving that state.
“What is humor if not a means of relaxation,” Townley said. “Being able to relax, laugh at something, laugh at yourself.”
For more stories like this, check out Insider’s Digital Culture team’s coverage here.