Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is thought to be experienced by around 58% of the population. It’s a physical response to visual and auditory stimuli, often described by those who experience it as ‘tingles’, usually in the back of the scalp and spine. For those who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, it has been likened to “low-grade euphoria”, “a pleasant form of parenthesia” and triggering a meditative, relaxed state. It is not, as some might believe, a sexual sensation.
YouTube is awash with videos created with the express intention of provoking an ASMR response. Many of these videos are from ‘ASMRtists’ who act out scenarios that incorporate the ‘triggers’ their viewers enjoy. These include a broad range of activities such as demonstrating calligraphy and art, reading stories, massage role-plays and even playing with kids’ slime. Even the seemingly tedious job of folding towels can leave some viewers in a deeply relaxed daze when narrated by a soothing whispered voice.
Since many ASMR aficionados are triggered by personal attention and gentle, meticulous actions, clinical settings are a popular theme, including real educational videos from medical institutions – so-called ‘unintentional ASMR’ videos. In recreating these scenarios an ASMR ‘doctor’ might perform a cranial nerve exam, wearing a lab coat and a stethoscope.
Within this niche, role-play appointments with ‘optometrists’ are enjoying a moment within the ASMR community. The top five YouTube videos tagged ‘ASMR optometrist’ have a combined view count of 11.7 million.
Steven (who prefers to keep his profession distinct from his YouTube persona, hence the mononym) is an UK-based optometrist who runs the YouTube channel SRP ASMR. His channel is currently enjoying a surge in popularity (his videos have a combined tally of 9.8 million views) due to a combination of his gentle voice and his genuine appreciation for the tools of his trade. In his videos, he enthusiastically demonstrates equipment including a slit-lamp, phoropter and Ishihara tests. He said he experiences ASMR himself, typically in real-life situations when visiting the doctor, optician or dentist. “My medical role-play scenarios probably appeal to my viewers based on my knowledge and experience of optometry, in addition to the authentic equipment used. So viewers hopefully feel more immersed when watching my videos. The fact that I’m a qualified optometrist allows me to bring a sense of authenticity.”
Meanwhile, The Steampunk Optometrist video by Moonlight Cottage ASMR has received more than two million views. It features a Victorian-themed set with antique optometry equipment (including a Snellen chart, an oil lamp and an elegant wooden-boxed lens test kit) and video-production values worthy of a movie theatre.
While these videos represent a fun diversion for those who experience ASMR, it’s interesting to think that in the real world, optometrists may be inadvertently improving the mental wellbeing of their patients, albeit temporarily, as they practice eyecare.