YouTuber Emma Chamberlain has created a brand around her quirky personality traits, which include drinking lots of iced coffee and frequently applying Carmex lip balm. (Claire Judson / L.A. Times HS Insider)
Claremont High School

The Emma Chamberlain Effect: an unprecedented phenomenon

“Sister WENT OFF!” a freshman girl with Doc Martens, mom jeans, two shirts, and a pink velvet scrunchie exclaims across my high school campus. I, along with many others, would agree that such an occurrence is anything but unusual. But this common style and sense of humor among the freshman population may have a year-old, YouTube-born origin: Emma Chamberlain. She has undoubtedly impacted millions of young people’s lives in numerous ways, from their clothing to dialect. But aside from being dramatically influential, Chamberlain has arguably become one of the most fascinating YouTubers of all time.

It was only two years ago when 15-year-old Chamberlain was an ordinary California high school student struggling to maintain a balance between an adequate GPA and a healthy social life. Now, at 17, she is a YouTuber with 7 million subscribers and an obsessive following. She has become a wild phenomenon among young teenagers, to say the least. Having become popular at such an unprecedented rate, she has prematurely experienced the constant cycle of scandals, drama, and apologies of any mainstream YouTuber, if not more so. Within a year, she has created not just a large fan base, but a large super fan base. But how did this all happen so quickly?

Many accredit Chamberlain’s success to her near flawless brand creation. By sticking to a few distinct aspects of a unique personality and style, it seems easy to get to know Chamberlain on a personal level. For example, iced coffee, Carmex lip balm, self-deprecating humor, and unique video effects are heavily associated with her content and have outwardly become hers. YouTubers that drink iced coffee, apply lip balm, or use similar humor in their videos have been labeled “Emma Chamberlain wannabes” by super fans. This phenomenon has gone to such an extreme that it has developed its own name: The Emma Chamberlain Effect.

The creator of YouTube channel Psych IRL, Donna Yatz, avidly analyzes YouTubers’ impacts on their viewers. According to her, in order to fully understand the Emma Chamberlain Effect, you first have to understand teenage behavior.

“Emma Chamberlain’s audience tends to skew younger: teenagers and preteens,” Donna said. “During one’s teenage years, the individual is actively developing their sense of self and identity that is separate from their parental figures. This is done through an exploration of personal values, beliefs, and goals. One influence that develops our sense of self is based on our sense of belonging to a group or our friendships. Although YouTubers aren’t exactly replacements for companions in real life, many have expressed that watching their favorite creator feels like watching a friend.”

Chamberlain’s audience is largely made up of young teenagers striving for a sense of belonging. Her humor, relatability, and personality truly set her apart from other mainstream YouTubers in that she lives an ordinary, genuine teenage lifestyle. While her content is often criticized for being mundane, the ordinariness has been vital to her success. Her content allows young viewers to simply feel as if they are “hanging out” with a close friend, thus making up for the social insufficiency teenagers often experience. Perhaps this artificial intimacy has been the driving factor in the creation of a super fan base: fans feel as if they are close friends with their favorite YouTubers rather than regular viewers.

Whether the freshman girl meandering across my high school campus in Doc Martens is an avid viewer of Emma Chamberlain or not, she might be having more of an effect on her than she is aware of. She, too, has truly fallen victim to the Emma Chamberlain Effect.