YouTube is arguably at the peak of its rise as a democratized platform for producing and sharing videos. Whether your interests lie in cooking or watching your favorite YouTube personalities talk about their day, a tailored subscription box means you can have everything (and everyone) you care about at your fingertips.
What happens, however, when the usual fare in your YouTube feed is replaced with something much darker? YouTube creator Logan Paul, visited the legendary Suicide Forest in Japan during December, (where over 100 people a year go to end their lives). There, he came across a man who had recently hanged himself, and showed the body on camera to his millions of fans amid laughs of disbelief and surprise from his crew.
“Depression is not a joke. Suicide is not a joke,” Paul said solemnly in front of the body, only to laugh raucously in the parking lot outside the forest just moments later.
To children, YouTubers can be idols — an ideal to aspire toward, or a lesson that hard work makes the dream work. Logan Paul and his crew show his subscribers many things, none of which are good. To them, running around and cracking jokes in a forest renowned for its deep pain and sorrow is something that’s OK. This sort of behavior sends the message that posting a video like this is alright as long as you say a few words about mental illness beforehand.
YouTube’s reaction to the Logan Paul situation has been lukewarm at best. They’ve cut business ties with him, unscheduled a YouTube TV show about him and have demonetized the infamous video he posted on New Year’s Eve. However, the real problem here is that his channel isn’t off the internet — and here’s why.
The fiasco surrounding the Suicide Forest video has now receded slightly, and Logan Paul has started to upload content as usual. Here’s where he stands after the video: with 400,000 new subscribers, the same like-dislike ratio on his videos and the same view count that he had before the Japan vlog that should have sent his career six-feet underground.
Should a man that violated the privacy of a man and his family in their darkest time be let go with nothing but a slap on the wrist? Paul’s receiving nothing but more attention, and in the YouTube sphere, no publicity is bad publicity.
Here, YouTube’s doing nothing more than mildly punishing a man who sat at his desk, edited together this vlog and thought, “This is OK,” as he pressed upload. How could this not set a precedent for the millions of YouTubers out there who work hard on content every day?
The problem here isn’t just the appalling nature of the vlog he uploaded: it’s that sensationalist nonsense and clickbait titles drive attention away from the genuinely hardworking content creators who make YouTube their full-time job.
“If I’m going to die tonight, I’m going to do it in my Gucci jacket,” said Logan Paul as he entered the suicide forest with a camera at the ready.
While Logan Paul is certainly at the root of this problem, his viewers — including us — are part of it too, with a significant part of his viewer demographic comprising teenagers above the age of 15. Whether you watch his videos ironically or you’re a genuine fan, you’re helping support a man whose experience with mental illness oscillates between ignorance and disrespect.
On average, there are 123 suicides a day, with most of these people being young adults or elderly people. So if YouTube won’t eschew Logan Paul, perhaps it’s time for us to think about who we support. Because videos like these, as despicable as they are, are what put that Gucci jacket on his back and the notion in his mind that if you have a large enough audience, you’re invincible.
If you’re in crisis or you need someone to talk to, the Engemann Student Health Center has a counseling department that’s free for student use. The counseling center helps provide crisis services, psychiatric evaluations as well as outreach programs for students. Contact them at (213) 740-7711 or make an appointment online at usc.edu/myshr. Free services are also available 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.