Digital Pleasures: ASMR, binaural beats and other ways to change your brain without drugs

One of the biggest breakout internet trends of recent years is ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), with celebrity ASMR videos (think Cardi B) and even an ASMR Superbowl commercial. In ASMR videos, creators whisper, tap, scratch and crinkle for the pleasure of the listener. If you already watch ASMR, you will be familiar with the relaxed tingling sense of euphoria that ASMR can produce. We think that ASMR is part of a range of pleasurable digital experiences that people use to alter their bodily states, to get to sleep, to relax, to feel close to someone and to experience physical pleasure. Despite the popularity of meditation apps, sleep apps and ASMR, we know little about how, why and how much people access these types of pleasurable digital experiences. We know from online metrics that these types of digital pleasures are very popular: in 2020, the Calm app reached 60 million downloads. Similarly, things like ASMR, and cam models, as well has binaural beats all have millions of listeners and watchers. Perhaps you are one of them?

To illustrate a broad range of types of digital pleasures, we have included questions on a range of experiences including cam models (like OnlyFans), binaural beats (like Digital Drugs), meditation and sleep apps, and ASMR. We want to understand some of the reasons why people consume digital pleasures. The types of questions we are asking in this survey are a global first. Your responses can help us to understand, for the first time, the different ways people are seeking pleasurable experiences through the internet. Together, we can gain important insight into the way technologies facilitate pleasure.

We are asking a few simple questions which we think will have a big payoff. These questions include how often you use digital tools and applications designed for pleasurable experiences, when you first started, and what kinds of pleasures or altered states you are trying to achieve. Pleasure comes in a range of different forms, including sexual pleasure, positive mood change, euphoric states, to relax and fall asleep, and being reminded of the sensation of being cared for or touched. We also know that just because you might be using your smart phone alone in your bedroom, it doesn’t mean that you’re not feeling or seeking connection, whether that be to yourself, others or something bigger. Understanding how people experience pleasure in the socially distanced COVID-19 era is more important than ever, and your answers can help us explain digital pleasures as an important part of everyday life. So please tune in and share your experiences at

Dr Naomi Smith, Dr Alexia Maddox, Dr Jenny Davis and Dr Monica Barratt