A student is earning £60k-a-year WHISPERING to people on YouTube in a bid to help those with depression and anxiety.
Sophie Michelle, 21, whispers messages like “Hello sweetheart” while dressed up as a doctor or mermaid.
She also makes stroking hand gestures with make-up brushes, stares directly into camera and role plays in her broadcasts.
The ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos are designed to create a physical response in the viewer, characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin.
The performing arts student, from Chester, Cheshire, was inspired to start making them after her now recovered brother James, 24, developed a brain tumour in 2015.
Sophie said: “In 2015, my 24-year-old brother, James, who has recovered now, developed a brain tumour. The stress and anxiety made me search online for videos that would help me sleep.
“I came across the usual rain and ambient sounds on YouTube, but then I found ASMR as a suggested video.
“I fell in love with it and it helped me sleep so much easier. I started using it during the day as well just to calm down when I felt anxious and it really helped.”
Then, In June 2017, after discussing the idea with her boyfriend, Matthew , 21, a trainee personal trainer – who backed her 100 per cent – she launched her own ASMR channel.
But, despite the positive reaction she has had from thousands of followers, Sophie says she does get accused of creating fetish material.
Sophie, who makes her money from advertisements, continued: “A very small percentage of people online may use these kind of videos for sexual reasons, but I think those people may have a personal issue if that’s the case.
“It makes me uncomfortable to think that someone is using it for sexual purposes, because that is never my intention.
“Some of my friends make comments about it being sexual, but most of them love ASMR and even watched me on YouTube before they met me at university!”
Describing the effect of ASMR videos – which celebrities like record-breaking rapper Cardi B are great fans of – she said: “I loved creating my channel because ASMR is something that can really help with anxiety and depression.
What is ASMR?
- ASMR stands for ‘Autonomous sensory meridian response’ – which is an experience characterised by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin, typically beginning on the scalp and moving down the neck, back and upper spine.
- So-called ‘ASMR artists’ have been turning to YouTube to create videos which will trigger such a response in the viewer.
- The videos can range from someone whispering into the camera, to incredibly mundane tasks like spraying a water bottle, tapping, stirring a bowl of soup or brushing make-up brushes over the skin.
- Some claim the videos and the feelings they induce work as stress-busters, and even help soothe anxiety and depression.
“ASMR is a tingly feeling that makes you feel a sense of peace, almost like a relaxing pins and needles that gives you a truly numb sensation.”
Sophie, whose collection of 199 videos, in which she whispers messages like ‘Hello sweetheart’ and makes stroking hand gestures with make-up brushes directly into a camera – sometimes role playing as a doctor and mermaid – are amongst 13 million ASMR broadcasts on YouTube.
A study conducted by the University of Sheffield earlier this year found that people experiencing the classic ‘tingles’ had a reduced heart rate when watching the videos and showed significant increases in positive emotions, including relaxation and feelings of social connection.
And while the experiment found that only half those taking part experienced the ASMR tingles, the videos had a considerable impact on those who did.
Sophie, who is using her income from her ASMR channel’s success to fund her degree in Theatre, TV and Performing Arts in North Wales, continued: “It’s amazing that I’m able to help people with their depression and anxiety. My fans online are so lovely and constantly grateful for my videos.
“A lot of people who watch me suffer from stress and panic attacks, so they always seem thankful that I continue posting.
“Even though I knew the impact ASMR had, I never expected my channel to become popular. I was only on 30,000 subscribers last Christmas and was close to giving up, because I wasn’t getting anywhere.
“But in the January after it completely blew up after one of my videos about hypnosis got 2.5 million views – I was so shocked that so many people loved it. Now my subscribers have grown to over 200,000 ”
Although her ASMR videos are strictly non-sexual, some online viewers, who do not understand them, have accused Sophie of creating fetish content.
While Sophie refers to her ASMR channel as her “career,” she says that could change in the future.
But, for now, her enterprise has made her compliance manager mum, Michelle, 50, and dad, Simon, 54, who works in the motor trade, extremely proud of their go-getting daughter.
She said: “Making my parents proud is hugely important to me.
“As an ASMR artist, I really want to help people to deal with stress and anxiety.
“And with celebrities like Cardi B speaking out about it, it helps ordinary people to be open about what helps them to relax and to discuss their mental health issues without being embarrassed.
“Watching ASMR isn’t something to be ashamed of if it helps you get to sleep or calms your anxiety.
“Massive YouTubers like PewDiePie are creating reaction videos that propels us into popularity and magazines are always talking about it – ASMR is everywhere and I love being part of it.”