This month a clip from an episode of Emma Chamberlain’s Spotify exclusive podcast anything goes became a trending sound bite on TikTok. Now Chamberlain is responding to news of her words going viral.
On the Dec. 8, 2022 episode titled “post it or it didn’t happen?” Chamberlain talks in depth about the reasons why we, as individuals, have this inexplicable, almost obsessive need to document everything. Over the course of the 39-minute episode, she presents two possible reasons as to why the desire to capture a memory seems so ingrained in us: It’s in response to our fear of losing a memory forever and having no permanent record of it, or it’s driven by the desire to capture moments that aid in the curation of our social media personas.
The now viral TikTok trend revolves around users posting what is essentially an aesthetic highlight reel as Chamberlain speaks to the “uncomfortable fear” of a memory being gone forever. What’s ironic, however, is the fact that this sound bite was taken out of context, harmlessly at that, which Chamberlain is aware of.
“Being on the internet is very psychologically challenging because you do get to a point where your identity is no longer in your control. This causes me a lot of psychological pain on a daily basis. I’ll be honest. That is the hardest part about all of this, because I feel like I can’t control all of it,” says Chamberlain, who spoke to In The Know by Yahoo at an event spotlighting her partnership with Canon and its Canon EOS R50 camera.
The lack of control over her own narrative, while terrifying at times, is just one aspect of her life.
“What a beautiful thing that is, and how lucky I am to have people who, for whatever reason, want to listen or watch or whatever,” Chamberlain continues. “That is worth it to me. To feel like at times my identity is out of my control because I really do value that so much. And I’m so grateful for it that it’s like, ‘OK, this is something I can push through.’”
“But there are times when things get taken out of context and it makes me look a way that I’m not; that’s challenging. Or even just portrays an opinion that I have incorrectly, which is kind of frustrating. I feel like I’m moldable in a way. And it’s not me molding,” she admits.
And while the trending sound bite isn’t exactly being used correctly, Chamberlain doesn’t mind — as long as her words are being used for good.
“I think it is ironic. It’s, like, not being used for what it was meant to be used for, but at the same time, it’s not too far off,” she says. “Listen, if my voice is at all useful in any way, shape or form, I’m like, ‘Do with it what you will.’ As long as it’s in some way helpful or positive. That’s all I care about.”
‘I think I, more than anyone, understand falling into an imbalance’
It’s a balancing act, really. How would an ideal version of ourself navigate social media? Well, for one, we wouldn’t feel pressure to acquire evidence that proves we live meaningful, or, at times, even enviable existences.
“I think I, more than anyone, understand falling into an imbalance,” Chamberlain tells us. “I have absolutely fallen into moments where it was like, ‘Am I even living for real life anymore? Yeah, I’m literally just doing things to film it.’ Now, that’s when you have a problem. The thing is, you can then, just through mindfulness and awareness, easily reverse that issue through practice and through sort of unlearning. And it’s not detrimental, but, you know, you have to learn how to live first, document second.”
When it comes to internet fame, there’s no time like the present. TikTok fame, for instance, can be bestowed upon anyone, regardless of who or how popular they are.
“Anything can go viral or, you know, like perform really well or help you build a following. When there’s that temptation there, it can be really hard to say to yourself, ‘Wait a minute, some things still have to be for me,’” she explains. “I know when I’m, like, on vacation and I’m taking too many photos. I can feel it. I’m like, ‘This is stupid. No, like, I just spent an hour. Like, it’s a beautiful time of day, and I spent like an hour taking, like, a photo of an outfit.’ I’m like, ‘No.’ I don’t really do that as much anymore. I tend to be more like, ‘OK, let’s snap a few pictures. And if it works, it works. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t and we’re getting back to our life here.’”
‘As long as you’re living first, capturing second, I think you’re good to go’
Given that she was just 17 years old when she launched her career on YouTube, Chamberlain’s desire to uplift the next generation of content creators, with the help of Canon, feels like a no-brainer. Even with millions of eyes on her (virtually, that is), it seems Chamberlain has learned a thing or two about the pitfalls of overemphasizing the need to capture moments. Admittedly, though, she’s still learning as she goes.
“Like, as much as I am critical of a lot of the ways that we can unhealthily document our lives, I am also a massive fan of documenting our lives,” she says. “I think the key takeaway is like, make sure you’re just living first. As long as you’re living first, capturing second, I think you’re good to go.”
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