Thousands of YouTube accounts are a part of a growing trend of ASMR videos. ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response -- which refers to the soothing and tingling feeling some people get when hearing certain sounds.
Though ASMR sounds technical, there’s not much science behind it. However, it’s become an internet craze with multiple accounts having more than a million subscribers. One of which belongs to 14-year-old Makenna Kelly. She started her ASMR channel in November of 2017.
“It reminds me of when my mom used to rub my back, or like someone, like my friend would play with my hair – how it kind of gives me those goosebumps down my back. That’s kind of what ASMR is but through a screen,” Kelly said.
Kelly only had a couple hundred subscribers the first few months, but then she did a video where she ate raw honeycomb and her channel exploded.
“One night I just woke up with thousands of subscribers,” Kelly said.
Thousands have turned into more than 1.6 million subscribers. Now she creates new videos two to three times a week.
“I always try to be unique. I always try to be different so like my videos stand out,” Kelly said.
From eating crickets to a fondant cake modeled after a backpack, Kelly’s YouTube popularity has opened her up to other opportunities as well.
“My YouTube channel has ventured me out into modeling, and sponsoring for other brands like on my Instagram. And it has brought me to California and I’ve done a lot of traveling for it,” Kelly said.
That popularity was unexpected for Kelly’s parents. In fact, they were a bit skeptical when their young teenage daughter first asked to create ASMR videos.
“If you don’t experience ASMR or you’ve never heard of it before, you click on a video of somebody tapping and whispering, and you just kind of wonder what’s going on or what they’re doing,” Kelly's mother Nichole Lacy said.
Lacy said they started researching ASMR.
“Who’s doing this, why are they doing it, is it inappropriate, is it ok, like what is it? So it was a huge learning experience for our whole family,” Lacy said.
They came to find the ASMR videos comfort people and they gave Kelly the green light to continue.
“A lot of people will reach out and say my ASMR has helped them with their anxiety and depression and I feel like that’s kind of the audience because that’s what ASMR is kind of for – to just let you destress and relax and let you know that everything’s okay,” Kelly said.
Nonetheless, Lacy says she monitors Kelly’s YouTube channel to make sure there aren’t any red flags.
“We do have passwords to all of her accounts, we check all of the emails,” Lacy said.
What helps is that YouTube has disabled the comment section for minors. Being a young teen, Kelly says she understands there are creeps out there who can take her practice the wrong way.
“My ASMR is completely innocent. I’m doing it to help people who want help. I’m not doing it for any other reason," Kelly said.
For now, Kelly plans to continue her channel saving the money she makes for college.
“An adult could support themselves on what she makes doing YouTube part time,” Lacy said.
“It just makes people feel safe, and that they’re loved, and that they can relax,” Kelly said.