The Toll of ASMR Fame
A Short-Short Story by Amy Bexley
Paul had been in Tokyo for a few weeks and was getting a little tired of the constant noise and crowds. He walked into a barbershop on a quiet side street, hoping for a quick trim.
The shop was small but clean, and the young Japanese woman behind the counter greeted Paul warmly. After explaining that he only needed a trim, Paul sat down in the barber’s chair. But instead of just giving him a trim, the barber started washing his hair.
Paul wanted to say something but felt embarrassed to speak up knowing how polite the Japanese were.
After the hair wash and trim, they followed this by a relaxing shave, a facial, then a shoulder and scalp massage. Paul was pleasantly surprised at how good he felt afterwards and realized that maybe he’d been wrong about Japanese barbershops. And it was all for the unbelievably low price of 500 yen ($3.58 USD).
What Paul didn’t realize was that he was being videotaped for the shop’s ASMR YouTube channel. The barber had noticed his reactions to the various treatments and thought he would be perfect for their ASMR content. Since he was a visiting foreigner, the barber felt there would be no harm. Besides, the shop owner had a sign posted about it, albeit in Japanese, which Paul couldn’t read.
Paul’s relaxing experience at the Japanese barbershop quickly went viral, and he became an internet sensation with memes being made about him. Various news outlets even interviewed him about his experience. The small barbershop profited immensely from Paul’s fame with customers lining out the door every day.
While Paul initially found the whole situation embarrassing, he eventually embraced it and became a minor celebrity. He even started making ASMR videos of his own and has become quite successful in the online ASMR community. So successful he quit his day job.
While Paul enjoyed the attention at first, it eventually felt overwhelming. People constantly recognized him in public, and people would try to touch him or his hair without asking. He even had to get a restraining order against one particularly persistent fan.
He felt anxiety and suffered from fits of deep depression. All of which took a toll on his ASMR-YouTube work. He missed deadlines, and his videos became shorter and less frequent.
Paul’s therapist suggested he take a break from ASMR work and focus on taking care of himself. Paul took her advice and went on an extended vacation. He is now back to making ASMR videos regularly but is much more selective about what he agrees to do. He has also taken steps to protect his privacy and is much happier.
Fame comes quickly but at a high price. Paul learned this the hard way, but he’s grateful for the experience. It taught him a lot about himself, and he’s now using his platform to help others who might struggle with anxiety or depression. He knows firsthand how easy it is to get overwhelmed, but also how important it is to ask for help when you need it.