When you go to describe Emma Chamberlain, the words that spring to mind are the same as those her fans comment on her videos: comforting, calming, like sitting down to an old friend. Which, put simply, is exactly what vlogging is to a lot of the people watching, it’s the 2021 answer to putting the radio on, and Emma is the comfort queen. “That’s the ultimate compliment,” she says when we talk about how she comforts her viewers, “especially because I watch YouTube videos for comfort myself so being able to be that for someone is so cool. Obviously, it’s hard for me to comprehend because I don’t see myself as comforting. In fact, quite the opposite because I’m myself and I actually get zero comfort from myself” she half-jokes, “That’s actually not true but it really is very cool that people feel that way about me, because that’s all I could ever want.”
Named the “funniest person on YouTube” by The New York Times back in 2019, the now 20-year-old has made a name for herself creating content that not only breaks the norm of ‘vlogging’ but also breaks the boundaries of what’s considered taboo for people, especially ‘famous people’, to publicly talk about. From morning poops, to social anxiety, to stained t-shirts: it’s this dry humour, raw conversation and lack of judgement that really does make Emma feel like just the kind of friend you want around. “If you watch the wrong things on the Internet, it’s bad for your brain”, Emma explains, “I don’t want to be on that side of the Internet. I want to be on the side of the Internet that’s for comfort and for learning and just being able to connect with something.”
If there’s something that we’ve hopefully learnt in the past 2 years of staying at home, it’s that there’s all sorts of ways for people to connect, for people to feel less lonely. From the Tumblr mutuals of old to the ‘Houseparty’s of 2020, the Internet can be a place where friends are made and where comfort is found. Of course, as Emma says there are two sides, there are positives and negatives to such a limitless place full of unknowns, but she’s definitely created a safe space through her work and openness.
We talk about parasocial relationships, a term being thrown around social media at the moment, notably the TikTok trend which jokes about celebrities and characters along the lines of “Wah-wah! ‘Parasocial relationships aren’t healthy’! I don’t give a paraf**k, this is my best friend”. Of course, there’s plenty about Emma: “To be honest, it’s not too far off. Obviously, I don’t film every single little detail of my life and I definitely pick and choose what I want to share, as I do with real-life friends. But when I pull out the camera and I’m talking to it, as crazy as it seems, I’m speaking to it like it’s a person. I really am. Sometimes I talk to the camera more than I actually talk to people if I’m being honest. So it’s not too far off that they feel like we’re best friends because in a way we kind of are; I talk to them like they’re a good friend and they receive it when they’re by themselves. It’s a very intimate experience. It makes complete sense, even if it sounds wonky.”
To read the rest of the interview where Emma Chamberlain opens up to us about sharing her past four years of life online, creating a lasting legacy and truly being herself on camera, click below and grab a copy of the TIMELESS issue.