Waking up next to your girlfriend, taking her out for supper or getting into an emotional argument can now all be done staring at your computer screen.A phenomenon on YouTube called ASMR Girlfriend, where content makers roleplay various scenarios, has become the new craze.A search for ‘ASMR Girlfriend’ on YouTube yields more than 549 000 results, and some videos that have had more than one million views.Ongoing research by website ASMR University about the phenomenon said that 10% out of 19 000 people surveyed so far had found ASMR sexually arousing.People using technology as a substitute for a real relationship is not new. There are a host of mobile apps and games that simulate romantic relationships.International website invisiblegirlfriend.com, for instance, allows people to subscribe to a chat service with a real person who will play the role of a girlfriend.But experts told Weekend Witness that taking to technology to cure loneliness does not work in the long term.Psychologist Kevin Fourie said the phenomenon could be a result of greater degrees of alienation in society today.“There’s been quite a lot of concern recently about alienation. People aren’t as socially involved as they used to be. Because of that, people are increasingly distant from each other and that leads to social phobia.“So involving yourself with an app or something like that can help you avoid the fear of rejection.”He said: “Over time, it will increase feelings of alienation and loneliness as it is not a real interaction. Even though it may be ‘safer’, in the long term it is not satisfying.“Our primal human needs are approval and love — you won’t get that from an app.”Clinical sexologist Marlene Wasserman said ASMR Girlfriend videos were essentially webcam porn under “the guise of some scientific sounding name”.“I watched a number of videos and was left feeling creeped out, uncomfortable in the extreme, even disturbed. “This [ASMR videos] falls into the category of real life connection — real people creating real connections that make you feel special or cared for.”Fourie said people who have taken to using technology to cure loneliness should confront their underlying fears and anxieties about potential rejection.“The issue is what people think of us and the reality is that this is not really relevant. “Only the opinions of those who are important to us matter.”Simulating sensationsAutonomous sensory meridian response – or ASMR – is the tingly or relaxing sensation which is stimulated by certain sounds like whispering.ASMR content on the internet can range from videos or sound clips of people making satisfying noises using methods like brushing the microphone with a make-up brush. People use these for relaxation, to concentrate while studying and to try to fall asleep.So popular is the practice, that some YouTube channels that make these videos have as many as 800 000 subscribers.