On YouTube: Do Ambience Videos really help to switch off?

On YouTube: Do Ambience Videos really help to switch off?

Cutlery rattling, whirring and steaming hissing of the coffee machine, soft jazz sounds, the sea rustles in the background. Much more will not happen this afternoon in a beach café somewhere in the world. The scenery can be enjoyed in peace, for a short moment the viewer gets lost in the surroundings.

And he didn’t even have to violate pandemic-related requirements for this, but simply opened his laptop. On the YouTube platform, so-called ambience videos are very popular right now. One could also say animated still images with corresponding background noise. If you want to take a break from the same everyday life, you can beam yourself into fireplace rooms, cafés, bookstores, wintry snow landscapes, quaint garden houses.

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These supposedly authentic soundscapes are not completely new. Just think of all the digital fireplace stills, which in the course of an incomprehensible hype were supposed to make the living room more cozy, but in the end became only a testimony of bad taste. “Sex and the City” fans will remember the Sound Machine in an unforgettable memory, without the frog sounds of which the hypersensitive Jack Berger could not find his way to sleep.

Ambience videos want to achieve a little more. By combining auditory and visual impressions, it is thus possible to enter a world that is significantly different from the everyday environment. Some people can do this just by their imagination, others need support and inspiration to escape into alternative worlds.

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“Ambience videos are a genre of YouTube videos,” says media scientist Helle Breth Klausen from Aarhus University in Denmark. “They are related to ASMR videos, which combine soundscapes with visual animations to create a certain relaxing atmosphere.“ The videos are often created in such a way that it seems that the viewer/listener is immersed in a very specific scene. As if he had made himself comfortable in a dimly lit library or as if he were sitting in a small jazz café in Paris by candlelight during a rainstorm.

Although the term ASMR is often used in connection with the ambience videos, both genres can be used quite differently. The so-called autonomous sensory meridian response experience generates certain stimulating and exciting reactions in the listener, such as goosebumps or a tingling sensation on the skin. Recently, it has therefore also been used in the porn industry.

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Ambience videos also fulfill this purpose, for example when it comes to creating a feeling of company or comfort, but they should also be able to relax the viewer / listener: he enjoys the scenery, lets himself drift, his thoughts wander, he feels carefree. “Some people use the videos as an audiovisual backdrop while they are working, writing or concentrating on a task,” says Klausen. “Others turn on an Ambience video before going to bed to feel a sense of company and comfort.“

At first, according to Klausen, it may be irritating to stare for minutes at a screen where nothing seems to be happening. But the fact that “nothing happens at all” is the point of the Ambience videos. “Imagine that you turn on one of the videos while you are working or trying to fall asleep. Then in this case, they use it as an environmental presence and not as something they have to ‘keep up’ with,” says the media scientist. “A movie with a plot or a book would interfere with your efforts to concentrate or fall asleep. For the Ambience videos, all you have to do is press Play and indulge in the auditory and visual cues to ‘teleport’ yourself into a world that is simpler, slower, less distracting and doesn’t expect anything from you.“

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In a broader sense, the ambience videos could therefore also be used to treat anxiety disorders or to hide everyday life and related worries in difficult times, such as the lockdown. Anyone who has only had their own walls in their field of vision for almost exactly one year now may be grateful for a change of location, even if only of a virtual nature. But they can also be suitable for escaping the oversupply and a daily flood of emails and numerous zoom impressions. Paradoxically, you actually have to make a decision for one of the ambience videos that are offered to you on numerous channels – and then spend a lot more time on the laptop instead of simply closing it.

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