Pimple popping videos took the internet by storm; and we soon learned why they are so soothing. Then came tonsil stone removal videos — yet another obsession that was impossibly disgusting and yet oddly satisfying. Now, we've got soap-cutting videos — which are proving that something as mundane as bar soap can still inexplicably engross us for hours on end.
Soap videos are getting tons of love not only from viewers, but outlets like Mashable and ShortList. These videos are so addictive, in fact, that there are entire Instagram accounts dedicated to the art of cutting soap, like ASMR Princess and Asmr Soap Queen. The premise is simple: all you see is a pair of hands cutting up soap in various ways. The videos typically have no music, because the sound of the soap being sliced and diced is so heavenly, you would never want anything to disturb it anyway. You can find soaps of all different colors, shapes, sizes, and textures, and Instagrammers cut them up using various tools and techniques.
I spent some time sifting through these videos, not expecting to be particularly mesmerized by bar soap; and lo and behold, within seconds, I felt this strange calmness inside of me — like even with all the madness in the world, I still have... soap.
Here are a couple good ones from ASMR Princess.
If YouTube is your platform of choice, fear not — there are plenty of soapy videos there, as well.
Do you feel what I feel?
Are these people cutting up perfectly good soap just for funsies? Possibly, but these videos may also serve a much deeper purpose. There's a reason you keep seeing the acronym ASMR, which stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, according to Sleep.org. As they explain, ASMR refers to a pleasant and calming tingling sensation often triggered by certain videos or sounds. Think of the feeling you get when you hear nails on a chalkboard. It's like that, only the exact opposite.
ASMR often starts in the scalp and then travels through the body. It promotes relaxation, making it ideal for people who suffer from stress, anxiety, or trouble sleeping. Like Sleep.org says, the videos and sounds are nothing out-of-this-world. Aside from soap-cutting, it could be something as simple as someone folding towels or brushing their hair. If you're still looking for more, there are endless types of these magnificently soothing YouTube videos — like squishy slime, mirror glaze cake decorating, melting crayons, and bubble magic.
Despite the many benefits that ASMR videos and sounds provide, there is still somewhat of a bad reputation lingering, especially for role-playing ASMR vids (and especially because some people call it "head orgasms") — because some people think these videos are used mainly for erotic purposes, as Alana Saltz noted in an article for Bustle in 2016. While some people do — a study from Swansea University in the UK found that the number is about five percent of users — most don't. (And either way, who cares?!) Overwhelmingly, we use ASMR to soothe our anxiety and help us get to sleep faster. I dare you to watch this video and not feel ridiculously relaxed.
ASMR relaxation videos are a simple and easy (and free!) way to calm your nerves, but it doesn't appear to have been too deeply studied by science yet. I did a quick search on PubMed.gov — the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health — and found only a couple related studies on the first page of results. One study from the University of Oxford used an online questionnaire with 130 participants who self-reported having experienced ASMR. The goal was to find what qualities exactly contribute to a more successful experience. They found that complex sounds lower in pitch were particularly effective, along with slower-paced videos heavily focused on detail. Perhaps unsurprisingly, background music made the experience worse.
Another study from the University of Winnipeg sought to explore if there might be specific personality characteristics the coincide with ASMR, using the Big Five Personality Inventory; and they indeed found a pattern. Participants with ASMR had higher scores for Openness-to-Experience and Neuroticism, and lower levels of Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness, compared with the control group.
While research may currently be scant, you don't need anyone to decide for you whether these videos soothe your soul. If anxiety or sleep issues are a cloud over your life, get lost in some of these magical ASMR videos. You'll be glad you did.