Hundreds of thousands have heard her eat
To the average well-mannered eater, hearing someone else chow down with abandon is an entirely unwelcome auditory experience. But believe it or not, there’s a whole subset of the population that derives a perverse pleasure from the sounds of strangers eating.
For proof of that, look no further than the 380,000 YouTube subscribers and 134,000 Instagram followers of Spirit Payton, better known to her loyal audience of ASMR fans as “ASMRTheChew”. On her page, one can find plenty of videos featuring a whispery Payton chowing down on everything from fried crabs to frosted cupcakes, and even applying makeup.
But without a doubt, her signature dish is the dill pickle, so much so that she’s become known as “the Pickle Lady” in ASMR circles. The 48 YouTube videos that make up her pickle playlist capture in intensely high fidelity all of the crunches and slurps that go into chowing down on a dill spear, complete with a velvety whispered narration.
Those sorts of audio closeups may freak people out, but the “autonomous sensory meridian response” is a real thing. Akin to a sort of “head orgasm” as The Guardian describes them, those predisposed to ASMR describe it as a pleasant tingling sensation in the head or back that’s triggered by certain sounds.
Though there’s only been a handful of legitimate scientific research around how and why they work, the Pickle Lady knows it’s the real deal. First introduced to ASMR by her daughter, Payton took to the videos as a way to cope with a degenerative bone disease that left her in debilitating pain. The soothing videos helped in ways that traditional medicine couldn’t. "I was shocked,” she told ABC7 about the effects of ASMR, “I imagined being somewhere really, really beautiful and I was so calm."
Her inspiration, is neither a fascination with the sound of pickles nor a desire for internet fame (though rapper/cereal influencer Cardi B is one of her Instagram followers), but a need to share ASMR’s healing power. “I go after ASMR because I feel like the world is stressed out and people have been forgotten about, people can't afford some medication,” Payton told The Fader. “People need help. They need to feel happy.”
These are trying times, and no one can be faulted with the harmless ways they choose to cope with the world. If listening to the sound of a stranger bite into a pickle is your form of meditation, just know that you’re certainly not alone.