Over the last few weeks, TikTokers have been calling for the internet’s former golden gal Emma Chamberlain to go to college. While many claim that she’d thrive in the environment, or that she’d benefit from the thought-structuring that institutionalised education has to offer, I can’t help but think this is just another way to take down a self-made gal with undertones of classism, jealousy and a hint of misogyny.
Let me explain.
The chatter started when a TikTok user called Emerson (@emmybetmia) posted a video in which she claimed that Emma and her podcast Anything Goes would benefit if she spent some time in college, riffing ideas back and forth with people who challenged her.
“I genuinely don’t say this to be rude but Emma Chamberlain’s podcast genuinely is just a girl who needs to go to college,” she said.
“I’m not saying that in the way that means ‘oh she dumb’, she’s just clearly a girl who needs to riff ideas with people and sometimes, they need a bit of feedback. Sometimes she’s a little in her echo chamber.”
She continued, stating that she believes Emma could benefit from the type of guidance institutionalised tertiary education would provide.
What in the classism is going on here?
The idea that the only way for Emma to be challenged and riff ideas off people is to pay exorbitant amounts of money to go to college is absolutely bonkers. Education is incredibly important, but it’s naive to think that college is the only place where ideas can be developed and ruminated on when so many people in the US can’t afford to get their foot in the door, let alone finish a degree.
Plus, universities and colleges are ripe for echo chambers because no matter where you go, people will flock to those who have the same opinions as them.
But despite the absolutely wild take, most of the comments on Emmerson’s TikTok were overwhelmingly in agreeance.
“Emma Chamberlain needs to do like seven years of undergrad plus masters and come out with a filmmaking degree and provide her purpose,” the top-liked comment said.
“A liberal arts degree just teaches you how to think and reason so yeah I agree,” said another.
“She lacks the language and grammar to more effectively communicate,” wrote one commenter.
Others believed that she needed to be humbled.
“Safe to say she needs to learn some humility as well,” a user wrote.
Oooft. Pretty harsh words, don’t you think? But it didn’t stop there.
Emerson’s video kicked off a whole heap of people weighing in on the topic, making their own videos across social media to dissect why the self-made YouTuber, podcaster and business owner would benefit from furthering her education. They argued that her podcast Anything Goes, which often features philosophical topics, was rudimental and only featured a sheltered perspective on the topics she takes on.
Of course, criticisms of podcasts and creative endeavours are normal and welcomed. However, this round of feedback by the TikTok collective doesn’t feel like it’s driven by genuine support of Emma’s educational growth — it feels like it’s there to tear her down.
The thing is, Emma is one of the biggest social media personalities of the last ten years. She started her YouTube channel at 16 years old after dropping out of high school, and quickly shot to fame for her laid-back, engaging content and specific editing style.
Over the years she seamlessly made the difficult transition from an online personality to a bonafide mainstream celebrity. She even copped an invite to the coveted Met Gala where she interviewed celebrities for Vogue. Not too shabby, hey?
Upon listening to the podcast, there are some moments where I understand where TikTokers are coming from. A waffly sentence, or a roundabout way to reach a conclusion. But that certainly doesn’t mean the Chamberlain Coffee owner isn’t smart.
One of the biggest hills I’ll die on is how important language is. Effective communication should be clear, concise and accessible to allow for people from all classes and education levels to understand. In many cases, Emma offers her audience an entry into philosophical topics in an easy-to-understand way. Her audience, who are often young women in their teens, are learning about these things along with her. And although she has an obligation to bring factual and correct information to her audience, Emma’s podcast — or any podcast for that matter— shouldn’t be used to replace actual research.
While many of her critics don’t provide examples as to why they feel like she’d benefit from furthering her education — which, is lowkey ironic considering the importance universities and colleges place on citing sources and examples — there are a multitude of ways that Emma could challenge her thinking and expand beyond her echo chamber. For example, she could bring on more varied guests or investigate the critiques of her opinions and explain why she disagrees.
On a recent Shameless podcast episode, hosts Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald shared that they believe the movement was just another account of TikTok tall poppy syndrome, akin to the takedown of former TikTok golden girl Matilda Djerf.
“I do find this slightly annoying that again this is a very successful woman that people are taking a hot shot at,” Michelle said on the “In Our French Girl Phase” episode.
“What is it about calling out Emma Chamberlain as uneducated? What is it about saying she didn’t go to college that young women adore?”
They went on to hypothesise that maybe the one thing people can use to pull a woman who has become so successful on her own merit down is the fact that she didn’t have a college experience, like many of her critics do.
We all know that education is incredibly important, but it doesn’t always dictate whether a person is smart or not — especially when college educations in America are so hard to acquire. Nor does it always dictate whether they’ll be successful.
Ultimately, the discussion isn’t about whether she would enjoy or benefit from college. It’s about asking ourselves why we’re telling this chick online to go get further educated before talking on topics she’s interested in.
We sure as hell don’t humble Andrew Tate and Joe Rogan, who are guilty of spouting literal misinformation, like we do young women.
Finally, the best thing about podcasts is if you don’t like them, you can turn them off and unsubscribe. Now that we live in an era where every man and his dog has a podcast, we can rest easy knowing there’s always another pod to tickle your fancy.
Anything Goes currently has a 4.9 rating on Spotify with more than 226k reviews. Say what you want about Emma Chamberlain and her intelligence, but the numbers are proving that the gal is doing something right.