It’s easy to underestimate just how important YouTube creators are to their biggest fans, but sometimes the power of watching a video is enough to stifle a panic attack.
It happened to Court, a longtime YouTube devotee and dedicated fan of the popular creator collective the Vlog Squad, who recounted the story in a recent video. Court, who didn’t give a last name, is the most recent guest on Brandon Calvillo’s YouTube series “Conversations With,” where he usually interviews creators and influencers about their careers. Court isn’t a creator — she’s a 21-year-old stan who wants to help Calvillo understand why viewers like herself develop such a strong connection to their favorite creators. And, more specifically, how one David Dobrik vlog could stop her panic attack.
Court said being able to focus on a creator’s video helps her and other viewers get through issues that they’re struggling with. In her case, Court said she was calming down from a panic attack one day when a new video from Dobrik was posted. “David uploaded his video, and suddenly it was all better,” she said.
Tiny moments of interaction with creators on Instagram or YouTube can go a long way, Court said. One creator, the comedian Joe Vulpis, has responded to her in the past, strengthening her connection to him.
“People are like, ‘How are you and Joe so close?’” Court said. “All I do is support him. I tell him how proud I am, and how appreciative I am for interacting with me because it’s important.”
Court said she feels the same way about other Vlog Squad members, even though her attempts to foster similar relationships don’t always work out. The connection is often one-sided, but Court said that feeling like she knows the creator is enough for her.
“I’ll say Dave now, I won’t even say David anymore,” Court said about David Dobrik. “I hate saying their full name. It’s that personal connection.”
She’s not the only one with these feelings, either. Tumblr fandom is almost entirely built on the connection stans have to their favorite creators, personal subreddits exist to discuss creators’ dating lives, and popular Instagram accounts dedicated to interacting with influencers have thousands of followers.
Parasocial relationships aren’t new — the term was first coined in 1965, and was often used to describe the relationship between viewers and their favorite characters on soap operas. People felt an extremely close kinship to the characters they were inviting into their homes daily. Parasocial relationships have only become more intimate as we’ve gained the ability to interact with creators, Arienne Ferchaud, an assistant professor in the School of Communication at Florida State University, told The Verge last year.
“The audience actually has an active role in the content that is created,” Ferchaud said. “It sort of blurs the line between creator and viewer [in a way] that hasn’t been possible before.”