To be a young person in today’s society can be very overwhelming. Imagine trying to navigate adolescence with the pressures of the real and online worlds. Mix that with the excess of information on their phone screens, showing political dismay and global warming anxieties. Then add COVID on top of everything. How can you not feel exhausted?
To combat these feelings and unwind, a growing number of young people, especially Gen Z, turn to familiar content creators on platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok for emotional comfort. This is similar to how older generations would put on their favorite TV show after a long day. Read on to learn more about the rise of these “comfort creators.”
What is a comfort creator?
Emerged in the past year, the term “comfort creators” describes creators who make relaxing, aesthetic content like home-cooking videos, ASMR videos, or vlogs showing things like their multi-step skincare routine as they get ready for bed.
YouTube recently reported that this type of content was becoming more popular on its platform. In a survey conducted this year, it found that “83 percent of Gen Z have used YouTube to watch soothing content that helps them relax,” an increase from the same survey published in 2021.
“The past two years have been a significant period of anxiety for young people, so it’s no surprise to see popular content that directly responds to this trend,” the 2022 YouTube report shared, adding that 69 percent of Gen Z “agree that they often find themselves returning to creators or content that feels comforting to them.”
Who are some examples of comfort creators?
Comfort creators can be people like Emily Mariko and Halle Burns, two TikTok creators who have accrued several million followers in the last couple years from preparing home-cooked meals in a way that looks effortless and even elegant. Mariko, known for her viral salmon rice bowl recipe, takes on an almost purist style as she never talks or overlays music in her cooking videos. Burns, who goes by @ballehurns on TikTok, describes her culinary creations in the most soothing voice, reminiscent of a mother telling their child a bedtime story.
Although the intention behind their videos may be to inspire others to cook similar meals, many viewers are satisfied by simply watching them, as seen in the comments. “The most relaxing thing to watch,” @allzoefsbesties commented on a TikTok of Emily prepping veggies and slicing bread, receiving over 70 likes. Another one by @zethugqola reads, “This was therapeutic, thank you.”
But the term “comfort creator” can also take on a different meaning, one in which the viewer finds comfort in the familiarity of an online creator regardless of their content. In such an overstimulating world, it is only natural to find young people turning to those they know they can rely on as a means of escape.
Take Good Mythical Morning for example. The YouTube duo Rhett and Link play guessing games and taste-test questionable foods in their LA studio. Their production crew is frequently heard laughing off camera at the absurdity happening in front of them.
Rhett and Link have spent the last 10 years making nearly 3,000 videos for their channel. They’ve also become friendly faces to their fanbase of over 17 million subscribers, with attention-grabbing thumbnail images and titles like “Which Cereal Stays Crunchy the Longest?”. Although their content wouldn’t necessarily be deemed comforting, someone who has watched them for years may think otherwise.
On Twitch, popular streamer Pokimane films herself playing video games like Among Us and Minecraft, offering more relaxing entertainment than the more high-intensity streams from huge gamers like Ninja. With a bubbly personality and hair in perfect curls, Pokimane chats with her fans and streams games that she plays with friends, making viewers feel like they are in the same room with her.
Why do Gen Z love comfort creators?
Over roughly the past decade, being part of an internet community has become more valuable and sought-out, propelled by the emergence of platforms like Tumblr, YouTube, Myspace, and Reddit. These sites allowed for more personalized spaces for people from around the world to share creative content and engage in public discourse.
Since then, this cultural shift has only strengthened, especially when COVID lockdown caused social media to become a place of solace for Gen Z and give them a sense of belonging more than ever before.
With that shifting online landscape, content creation has evolved as well. Many creators now find themselves choosing to produce more relatable and intimate content that makes their audience feel like they know them on a personal level. This marks a contrast to the viral content we used to see from performative YouTube stars whose digital fame was more short-lived.
Just on YouTube, 78 percent of Gen Z said they use the platform because “it serves them with content that’s personally relevant to them,” the 2022 report noted. That can be said across most social media apps, where content is tailored to the individual’s interests in a way that is meant to make them feel good about what they are engaging in.
Despite the imperfections of online platforms, it is clear that they provide a space for young people to step away from the uncertain realities, and to find comfort in those they enjoy watching.