Imagine using a method of escapism to relieve your anxiety, depression and even just express your creativity. As you use these methods to relieve anguish, one day everything changes — the world now has the ability to weigh in and more specifically judge you for it.
Your method of escape is now a cage and despite desperately wanting to sliver between the cold metal bars, you’re faced with the conflict to stay entrapped in the metal box because expressing your feelings, now to the world, also helps others who’ve struggled with similar emotions. Without even trying, you’ve given a voice to the voiceless.
Most can agree that this would be a hard decision to face. Now imagine, on top of all these gut-wrenching emotions, being a 16-year-old girl — now you’re in the shoes of social media phenomenon Emma Chamberlain.
The Spark Ignites
Chamberlain started her YouTube channel back in the summer of 2017, and just two months later, her video titled “We all owe the dollar store an apology,” which included a haul from Dollar Tree with a tad of sarcastic commentary garnished on top, made waves on the platform. It accumulated approximately 500,000 views, which was a huge stride for Chamberlain in comparison to her other videos at the time, which barely gathered 1,000 views.
Continuing her YouTube career, Chamberlain only continued to flourish on the platform, becoming known for her editing style that included zoom-in frames, text on the screen and comedic pauses. Although simple add-ins, these effects weren’t like anything else being used on the platform at the time and many vlog-style YouTubers followed in her footsteps as they began integrating little nods to Chamberlain into their own content.
By 2018, Chamberlain had moved out of her father’s house and to Los Angeles to further her career. Soon after this big move, Chamberlain began to leave an even deeper footprint on the digital world as she started to collaborate with other popular content creators. These content creators (just to name a few) were The Sister Squad, The Girdies, The Vlog Squad and Tana Mongeau. Through these collaborations, Chamberlain developed close friendships and proved to the world that she could stand next to the biggest content creators and hold her own.
A Flickering Light
Although fame can seem like all red carpets and glamour, it has its side effects and when thrust into it so unexpectedly, it’s hard to prepare for the aftershock. Chamberlain experienced this first hand on many occasions — from people criticizing her body, digging into her personal relationships with other creators, and even criticizing her for receiving larger opportunities like the chance to work with brands like Louis Vuitton and getting invited to attend the Met Gala.
All of these external pressures and the internal pressures of balancing her workload caused unmanageable stress for the social media star and made her question her career as a YouTuber.
As she weighed her options, Chamberlain felt as if she had an unpayable debt to the YouTube community, considering it brought her financial stability at the ripe age of 17, her coffee business Chamberlain Coffee that is so close to her heart and her newest outlet for escape, her podcast titled “Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain.”
When the Flame Burns Out
Just like any fire that roars with blistering heat, there’s always an inevitable point when the burning stops — when the flame extinguishes. Chamberlain described reaching this point with her YouTube channel, calling it “YouTube Burnout.” In a recent podcast episode titled “The Truth About YouTube,” she discussed how she got to this inevitable stage of her career on the platform.
Chamberlain reveals, “I started to feel really stressed out that this is my job. I don’t understand how I ended up here in the first place. So I don’t know how I’m supposed to continue it successfully because I don’t even know how I got here!”
She continued to confide in listeners, saying, “I got to such a dark place in this hamster wheel of being a YouTuber that I said, you know what, I can’t do this at all. I need to step back completely. I need to step back and heal from the years and years of burnout and give myself weeks, months, years if I need to figure out if it’s something that I can do in a healthy way.”
Fans felt mixed emotions, both somber and sympathetic to the mental toll the platform has been causing Chamberlin, who isn’t even 21 yet.
YouTube burnout isn’t a taboo topic and, like Chamberlain, many other creators have fallen victim to it. In a video released in 2018 to her 8 million subscribers, vlogger Alisha Marie discussed similar feelings. Marie, who has been on the platform since she was 15 years old, found growing out of a youthful image to be difficult as she began to navigate her 20s and adulthood. Praised for her transition from “DIY” guru to lifestyle vlogger, Marie found the change more difficult than she expected and she has made that clear to her audience.
In the video, an emotional Marie expresses that after having a YouTube channel for a whopping 10 years, “creatively she’s just not in it anymore.” Through the tears, Marie explains how hard it is to step away from a platform she’s loved for so many years of her life, but she has to put herself first for once.
Since her brief hiatus, Marie has returned to the platform and seems to have fallen back in love with her content while ensuring to prioritize her mental health.
While Chamberlain stepping away from YouTube after years of being such a prominent figure may be hard for some fans to grasp, it’s what she needs to get her fire and love for the work back. After six years, Chamberlain can finally take a breather, rest and focus on projects outside of the platform — and after years of making us laugh, cry, and copy all of her fashion trends, it is what she utterly deserves.