What human relationships look like in a digital age.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, written by Kate Lindsay and edited by Nick Catucci.
I put a fun little quip here, but it linked out to a Twitter image, a feature that Elon Musk managed to break in the 30 minutes between then and now. —Kate
Is there such thing as a “comfort newsletter”?
I was twelve years old when I first saw the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I would go on to watch it roughly every night for the next six years. It would just be on—while I worked, while I slept, and when I found a new person (slash victim) who I had not yet forced to see it.
To this day, Pride and Prejudice is my comfort movie, and the only reason I’m not still putting it on every single day is because the internet has allowed for a new kind of self-soothing: comfort people.
This isn’t a new concept—the New York Times first wrote about it in 2021—but it’s one that I’ve only just started to think about properly after I started watching vlogs by Georgie Morley. She’s a relatively new creator who I discovered through TikTok, thanks to her videos about living in Nantucket during the off-season. On her most recent video, I spotted this comment:
“This is very quickly becoming my comfort channel.”
My definition of a comfort creator is similar to how the Times described it: “familiar content, the kind that is soothing enough to leave on in the background while cooking, or to play while falling asleep.” But when I opened this question up to my Instagram followers (“Who is your comfort person?”) I learned that what’s comforting is wildly different for all of us. Answers ranged from animal accounts like @GoodBoyOllie to online creators like Jenn Im and Wishbone Kitchen to celebrities like Martha Stewart and Jack Black (full list of 40 recommended comfort creators for paid subscribers below!). Some creators, like YouTuber Mai Pham, were conversely comforting to people specifically because their content is weirdly, soothingly chaotic. The heart wants what it wants!
What I find most interesting about the phenomenon of “comfort people” is less so the content, but more how it represents a brand new kind of human relationship, one that formed exclusively in the digital age.
A comfort-person relationship is a feeling of friendship and warmness that can only ever go one way. It’s a relationship that does not, and I’d argue cannot, exist in real life. Certainly, were I to actually meet some of my comfort people, I think the magic might be shattered, because the comfort-person formula is equal parts their life, and the aspirations we project onto them. It’s not just the videos we like, but the creator’s very personhood—or at least, what we imagine it to be. We’re given the privilege of digitally inserting ourselves into that space for even just 15 minutes. While we’re there, we decide what we need from them, consciously or not.
The “comfort person” dynamic is precariously close to a “parasocial” relationship, and naturally, when we glimpse the sharp edges and aspects of a person that defy the image of them we’ve projected, toxicity can follow. But as long as we go into these new digital relationships with an understanding that the person on our screen is up to three-quarters of our own invention, then there’s no harm in leaning on them.
Your (and my!) favorite comfort people: