If you asked me a year ago that I’d find videos of pimples being popped and soap being cut satisfying, I would probably have not believed you. However, a sleepless night in April this year introduced me to the world of Oddly Satisfying Videos that scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. It was an instant brain massage that, at times, catapulted into a cerebral orgasm. Like with most things connected to the dot com, Oddly Satisfying Videos emerged on Reddit. The “oddly satisfying” subreddit which was first established in 2013, now has over two million subscribers. Soon, this trend took over YouTube and Instagram where there are entire handles and pages dedicated to videos that, as the Irish Examiner puts it, “seek to produce a calming and tingling sensation by reproducing mundane tasks and sounds, like tapping, scratching, or whispering into a microphone”
An Ofcom report stated that “throughout the sample, many children of different ages were watching videos whose appeal seemed to be related to their sensory or tactile nature, beyond the normal audio and visual features of video content”.
These videos usually consist of slime-making, kinetic sand slicing, soap cutting, paint mixing, cake glazing or sponge cutting. However, the oddest of these videos are the ones where people clean nail ingrowths, pick at scabs and blackheads or clip disgustingly overgrown nails. A nail clipping video provided by Dr. Judy Sperling has over one million views on YouTube. A video titled ‘LARGE Blackheads Removal – Best Pimple Popping Videos’ on the same website has over five million views and over a thousand comments
“You started to have a nomenclature around it and you started having a taxonomy, and you were able to explain a thing you’d always seen and enjoyed,” said Kevin Allocca, head of culture and trends at YouTube to the New York Times.
With anxiety rates showing a spike in recent years, people have turned to the internet to help alleviate their stress levels. Just like the sudden trend in zodiac pages has shot up with people seeking interplanetary explanations to our worldly events, we have videos on the net that are noninteractive and non-commercial and help soothe nerves that have been wrecked raw. Therapy can be expensive and so can Korean sheet masks – so goes a common joke on Twitter. But you know what’s free? Clicking on an oddly satisfying video on your Instagram feed.
What is ASMR?
Ever feel a tingling, static-like sensation in your scalp or at the back of your neck when you’re exposed to certain repeated stimuli? That experience is called Autonomous sensory meridian response or ASMR. It is said to produce a sense of low-grade euphoria followed by a calming sensation and hence, has been used in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
The science behind it
What appears to make these videos both nauseating and satisfying is that it appeals to our brain’s desire for symmetry, patterns, and repetition. That’s how ASMR or “autonomous sensory meridian response” became so popular on the net that global phenomenon like Cardi B put out their own ASMR videos. These videos help the brain derive pleasure by exposing it to certain auditory stimuli.