A new article from the New York Times Magazine details the decade-long history of ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, tracing the trajectory from a small Facebook group of dedicated tinglers to a massive pop culture phenomenon. In the latter half of the piece, writer Jamie Lauren Keiles goes shopping with Gibi ASMR, one of the most popular ASMR purveyors on YouTube with over 1.8 million subscribers, and they discuss what has long flown under the radar: most of the vloggers who perform ASMR are young women who need to protect themselves from commenters and stalkers—those whose interest in ASMR goes beyond an innocent desire to be lulled to sleep or otherwise by pleasant sounds.
Gibi, who refuses to publish her last name, tells Keiles, “I’ve learned a lot about cybersecurity. If you ever want to start a YouTube channel, delete everything, and then go back and delete more. Make everything private. Act like you have five million subscribers when you’re starting, because you can’t go back... People are naturally curious. They can look up if it’s raining where I am.”
From the Times:
She told me the story of one obsessive fan who believed she was talking directly to him. He sent her tens of thousands of messages, she said, and she filed a police report. Other fans have pried into her past, digging up old records from high school. Creepiness and harassment are widespread problems for the young female creators of the A.S.M.R. world. Gibi takes extreme precautions to protect her own privacy. She doesn’t share her last name, or her relationship status, or even what city she lives in. When she films in an airport, she is careful to choose an unplaceable background. If she happens to meet a fan on the street near her house, she pretends that she’s there on vacation.
Conversation surrounding ASMR, and, more specifically, whether or not it is a sexual in nature, has been an ongoing issue since its inception in 2009. It’s one of the reasons the field is called “ASMR” and not the colloquiual “brain-gasm.” For Gibi, ASMR is a practice she enjoys, her source of full-time employment, and relaxation. That doesn’t mean all of her followers interest in her is quite as non-threatening.
I’d love to know what YouTube does to protect its creators, if anything. I’m sure if their approach is similar to how they handle child pornography and abuse, it’s not enough.
Read the full article here.