Logan Paul’s video featuring a human being’s body who had died from suicide was beyond horrific, but the public outrage for his (sequential, conscious) insensitive actions should have transpired long before.
In other words, Logan Paul — and his brother, Jake Paul — have been notoriously problematic since they began posting on Vine in 2013. Although Jake Paul has become more widely infamous for emotional abuse allegations, racism and overall immaturity partially due to being in contract with Disney, backlash hadn’t been reaching Logan Paul — even as he posted a “prank” in front of his child fanbase in which he violently faked his own death.
Thus, the thought process I underwent when first stumbling upon the disaster that was Paul’s video in Aokigahara was first the initial reaction of horror and disgust. But it was almost immediately followed by, “Who even is this?” What was mind-boggling was that I wasn’t alone; many of my classmates and friends had little to no idea who Logan Paul was prior to this video’s release. After all, how can someone so blatantly offensive accumulate this many followers — 16 million, to be exact — without a decent amount of people knowing?
Logan Paul’s older vines — the foundation for his following — cater to an audience that would have to be able to endure an account that is comprised of dominantly cheesy, slapstick humor. This isn’t a jab necessarily at those who enjoy this form of humor, as it’s the formatting for most elements of kid and teen sitcoms.
So this does mean that, yes, Paul’s content has been dominantly garnering child to pre-teen audiences, which is one of the more jarring issues with his video in Aokigahara. But it also poses some questions about how deep his influence has been running with kids even before this video, particularly those who idolize him seemingly unconditionally.
One of the first questions we should be asking ourselves is how many similar social media stars and their loyal followers people (like me) aren’t aware of, as it shouldn’t take a publicized dead body or rape allegation (in cases like Sam Pepper, Carter Reynolds, and Curtis Lepore) before the alarms go off and the majority realizes they’re an issue.
The next questions we ask should be concerning the roles social media platforms and companies play in all of this. Youtube’s official less than graceful response took over a week after allowing Paul’s video to land on the trending page. It was Logan Paul himself who ultimately took the video down, not Youtube. Youtube did not age restrict Paul’s video, but they did, for some reason, initially age gate some creators’ response videos that contained no graphic content nor profanity. This is not to say that Youtube needs to censor and age restrict every potentially inappropriate video, but it does mean its policies and practices should be uniform and made clear to viewers and creators.
And the final set of questions should involve how we, as consumers and viewers, can continue to hold content creators accountable. Despite the seemingly downward trajectory of Paul’s image, the actual likelihood that he will lose his fan base and influence is little to none. Even though some of the most recent coverage of Carter Reynolds occurred years ago, he still has 3.3 million followers on Instagram. Curtis Lepore has 3.9 million. And most notably, Logan Paul’s subscriber count itself has been growing since the video was posted in the first place, jumping from 15 million to 16 million.
To assume that if we simply stop talking about these people that they will lose all relevancy is unfortunately unrealistic and misguided — it was never us talking about them in the first place. The beauty and fault of social media is that it can occur in a vacuum. We generally have control over how our experience looks. We can click and choose the kind of content we want to see; we exclude and ignore the kind we don’t, save for advertisements (which are still catered to our browsing history).
Kids are not denied of this experience. Just because I ignore Logan Paul’s videos for years to come does not mean 16 million others will. And although I don’t propose everyone should now be an avid subscriber to Logan Paul, it is nonetheless important that we stay wary of his racism, immaturity and influence over a young audience.
Photo taken from website, RT.