ASMR has been on everyone's lips since last year but it has now spilled over into the tech industry. Here people stroke, scratch, knock and whisper. Tech ASMR videos are experiencing hype. We talked to Jess from the popular tech ASMR YouTube channel about the phenomenon.
An iPhone 11 Pro lies on a velvet tablecloth, which seems to be color-coordinated with the new case color. Just the sight of the tablecloth should create joyful anticipation for ASMR fans and put the hairs on the back of their necks on alert. But the real star of this YouTube video is the new smartphone. Two female hands with long, striking fingernails caress the device with gentle strokes, light scratching and tapping on the novel glass hump housing triple camera. If you listen with headphones, you might think that the sound takes place directly in your head. The hands in the video belong to 26-year-old Jess, the German YouTuber behind the English language Tingle Tech ASMR YouTube channel. "Hey you!", she says in a gentle whisper and she greets her loyal followers in each of her 43 videos released so far.
What is tech Tingle Tech ASMR?
Tingle Tech ASMR is pretty much the opposite of the YouTube channel JerryRigEverything. Whereas Zack Nelson uses fire, scratchers, and carpet knives, Jess uses soft, fluffy brushes, artificial fingernails, and other creative items to show viewers not the durability of a new smartphone, but its sonorous feel.
ASMR is an abbreviation for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and can simply be described as a physical or mental 'goosebump' that is caused by a certain stimulus and ideally immerses the whole body in a pleasant tingling sensation. Everybody defines it differently, and not everyone is susceptible to this experience, which you either love or hate. These 'goosebumps in the head' are caused by sounds but also by physical stimuli on the skin, for example by stroking. Many followers use audio stimuli from YouTube videos as an aid to falling asleep, for relaxation, or to fight loneliness. There are also so-called ASMR role-playing games on the Internet. For example, a simulated visit to the doctor can also trigger so-called tingles in people. The direct, whispered 'hey you' really says: "I'm here for you, this is unconditionally and completely made for you alone, relax."
ASMR is sensuality, aesthetics and gentleness. This is precisely why the large, always caring community is very demanding when it comes to YouTube videos that tease with the term. What the phenomenon represents is somehow intimate, but never sexual. Here too, the community acts and distances itself from dubious offers like "Porn ASMR". A smartphone, on the other hand, seems to be the perfect object for the relaxing tingling in the head; the video for the unboxing of the iPhone 11 Pro by Tingle Tech ASMR got almost 500,000 hits in a very short time - for such a small YouTube channel that's enormous.
So where does the success come from? Jess explains: "Why explicitly the video for the iPhone 11 Pro was so successful, I don't really know. Rather, I believe that unboxing in itself can consciously or unconsciously trigger tingles in many people. Also, with the hype surrounding ASMR, the design of the packaging is finally being appreciated more. Who doesn't like to open a package that has been packed for them and is brand new?" It is something that you don't experience every day, and I find it somehow hypnotic.
ASMR unboxings are a successful format
ASMR decelerated. While ordinary tech unboxings are mostly exciting affairs, comparing and trying out new technology, ASMR YouTubers take an extremely long time to unpack and try out the new product. The object of the video doesn't seem to be flagship X, which will be outdated in a year. The object must be something special for a person to take so much time for a mindful approach, right? The goal here seems to be learning to finally value tech treasures again, which can trigger positive feelings. In this way, the moment of the tearing of crackling protective foil can be fully enjoyed and rewound as often as you like. Thanks to high-quality microphones and cameras, you almost feel the new matte back of the iPhone on your own skin. The sound of fingernails on the camera glass has something fascinating about it that you couldn't get in any other unboxing video; something you never notice in the fast pace of everyday life.
The technical aspect is not neglected despite the ASMR focus. Jess is a technology journalist herself, and worked as a freelance journalist for blogs and magazines until the end of 2019. She still has interesting smartphone comparisons here and there in her ASMR hands-on videos. Last year, she discovered a gap in the market and the could produce material to fill it, which now perfectly combines two of her passions: tech and ASMR. Since then, the Düsseldorf-based YouTuber has uploaded numerous videos in the past six months, entered into partnerships with other ASMR YouTubers. Viewers have watched her videos for a total of 4.7 million minutes.
Tingle Tech ASMR uploaded the new Huawei P40 Pro to YouTube in time for the NDA's fall as an ASMR unboxing. You can see the peculiarity, and the willingness to be different also on the manufacturer side. After the success of her iPhone unboxing, Jess started to receive the requests for cooperation from companies. But apart from advertising money from Google and an affiliate cooperation, the YouTuber has not yet generated any income with her passion. This is very important to her at the moment: "The viewers come to my channel because they want to relax. I find advertising inappropriate here. Many ASMR fans also fall asleep to the videos, which is why it is common practice in the industry to start advertising only before the videos. In the middle or at the end would be a drama and would tear everyone out of their relaxation and rightly annoy them," says Jess.
Who consumes tech ASMR content?
We were allowed to take a look at 26-year-old Jess's YouTube statistics. The combination of ASMR and technology seems to attract mainly men: 68.2 percent of the viewers belong to this gender. Only 31.8 percent of the viewers are female, according to Google statistics. The greatest interest seems to come from those aged 18 to 24, with 47.2 percent of viewers belong to this generation. Around 25 percent are between 25 and 34 years old, the rest is distributed among the very young (13-17 years) or middle-aged (45-54 years). The statistics allow a good estimate of who is consuming tech ASMR videos. However, it is not set in stone, because the characteristics can only be analyzed by those viewers who are logged in via a Google account and have provided real personal data.
Is this true ASMR or not?
Anyone who wants to find out whether they react positively or negatively to ASMR cannot simply switch on a video and find out, explains Jess: "Some people are not susceptible to sound at all, but only to touch, for example, from their partner or even doctors, family members, or friends. You often hear about so-called 'head ticklers' that are supposed to trigger ASMR's." But that's not quite it: "The feeling that these head ticklers trigger comes very close to an ASMR tingle. But there is simply no single definition."
This is the point, many people do not even know that the sometimes pleasant feelings can possibly be explained by ASMR. "That's why you can't sweepingly say you like ASMR or you don't like it because you've watched a video about it," explains the YouTuber. It is also possible that you just don't react the same way to every ASMR YouTuber. Jess tries to describe the feeling that triggers tingles in her: "It's as if someone pressed your reset button. You are suddenly very calm, almost frozen, but in a positive sense. It's incredibly relaxing."
ASMR Community: a rare sight online
As an online journalist, you are at odds with reporting on the ASMR community. Because another phenomenon is the enormously human and polite way of dealing with each other. If you read the comments among the YouTube videos of Tingle Tech ASMR, you won't find much hate, insult, and negative criticism. A blessing in the online world - and a rarity. One would prefer not to draw attention to this grateful community at all, so as not to burst the bubble. And yet it is a prime example of how people can interact with each other online.
Besides praise and positively formulated criticism under each video, there are also explicit video wishes - more or less whispers, for example, a request for video without any spoken language at all - which many YouTubers would like to fulfill. This distinguishes the tech ASMR world from the "normal" tech-bubble in which we operate in journalism. Hurtful comments, arrogant correction of mistakes or know-it-alls with veiled insults are common on most other tech channels on YouTube. "I have not yet received any insults or had to delete such under the contents. But there are still spam comments from lost viewers," explains Jess. Maybe it is also this fact that Jess attracts many gadget fans and unboxing friends to the ASMR area. Here, at least the (technical) world is still okay.
Cover image: Tingle Tech ASMR