The search for affirmations reached an all-time high in 2021, both figuratively and literally. Google Trends’ ‘year in search’ revealed that people worldwide looked up affirmations more than ever before in the year that was, from money, success, to health and love. It’s not surprising that people turned to the Internet where these small comforts were readily available as a global pandemic raged in the background and our collective mental health systemically plunged. You know the feeling when, to believe something, you have to hear someone say it? Affirmations work on the same principle, only they’re a stranger’s words but really, you’re speaking them to yourself. Those who affirm and manifest, tell your future and then put you to sleep via ASMR, have developed a burgeoning niche for themselves on the Internet. Earlier, one might hear an odd story here and there that two strangers flocked together for warmth, but now an entire community is fast coming together for no other purpose but comfort. Humanity has always looked to spiritual gurus in times of need, but rarely has it turned to strangers to pretend to be their friends or lovers. It begs the question: are we, as a generation, getting lonelier?
Is anyone out there?
Friends- who knows? Gibi ASMR is, though. So are ASMR Darling, Whispers of the Wolf and Goodnight Moon, among the countless other ASMRtists who put in hours (some of their videos literally last hours) to “pluck toxic energy” and repeat positive affirmations in soothing whispers. Gibi ASMR’s affirmation video that’s 21 minutes long and has around 3 million views on YouTube wants to help you with soothing your anxiety and putting you to sleep. Some of the affirmations spoken by her? “Feel the sun on your face”, “things will change for the better”, “you’re a good friend”. One of the top comments on her video reads: “I am literally in tears, listening to this. I have abusive, depressive issues, and am recently divorced. At almost 40 years old, I’m taking comfort from a young pup. Thank you. Well done vid.” There’s another one among the top videos that wants to help you with self-image.
The selling point of these videos is that they are low-effort on you- the viewer’s part. They don’t want you to pay attention. They’re not even expecting you to watch the whole thing. If you nod off midway, that’s a compliment for the creators, and one that many of these artists receive.
‘You don’t suck. You’re just a Gemini.’
Who isn’t absolutely ensnared by the idea of the past and the future? We work in the present, but the two non-existent realms of time are really home. So if someone is telling you, for free, all the glittering things your future holds and acknowledges all the burdens that have weighed down your past in the same breath: you can’t help but be drawn in, in spite of your better judgment. Factor in the part where your personality traits can be easily explained away by a bunch of star signs that you share with the rest of the world’s population, and you have a hitmaker. On the Internet one only wants to feel one of two ways: supremely unique and exactly like everybody else.
Stargirl The Practical Witch has around 7,94,000 subscribers on YouTube with just 216 (albeit detailed and lengthy) videos.
Sea shanties and soulmates
It’s no surprise that 2021 was the year when ‘doomscrolling’ was searched more than ever before globally. But somehow, in the same breath, people were also looking up ‘soulmates’ and sea shanties, both of which also reached a global high in searches as per Google Trends. Perhaps nothing better explains the dichotomy of being alive.
The lyrics of the sea shanty go: “Soon may the Wellerman come,
To bring us sugar and tea and rum
One day, when the tonguin’ is done
We’ll take our leave and go.”
Why we looked up sea shanties so much, contrarily, might extend beyond aesthetic purposes, if you look at why they really originated. Sailors who existed ages before the age of Internet, working on vessels through months of arduous labour, developed them as work songs. They didn’t just entertain. Singing has always brought relief from the physical pain of labour. In India, farmers to this day sing as they till land. Our search for sea shanties might not just be a tiny sweet human thing; it might also hinge on the desire for relief. A sea shanty is a sailor’s song. Perhaps there’s nothing lonelier than a sailor at sea, singing away. So what have we really been wanting to hear? It’s what you’ve always wanted to hear.