On December 31, 2017, YouTube daily vlogger Logan Paul made the conscious and ignorant decision to film, edit, and upload a video portraying a man who had recently taken his own life. Paul and his friends had set out to film a vlog capturing their experience of camping in the infamous Aokigahara Forest, otherwise known as the “Japanese suicide forest”. Notorious for being the location of over 250 suicide attempts a year, hence the reputation it has acquired amongst people from across the world. Paul inappropriately exposed this inhumane depiction of the suicide victim to his 15 million subscribers: a demographic that primarily consists of children 13 and younger. He not only aired a sensitive and private tragedy to the public, but sadistically ridiculed the victim’s corpse as he filmed it up close. Subsequently, Paul proceeded to focus the experience on himself and how his discovery marked a significant event in Youtube history. With no regards to the victim’s family and loved ones, Paul poorly communicated any support for those suffering from depression. However, despite these faults, his most notable offense is relayed within his weak attempt to raise awareness for suicide prevention.
The intensely graphic depiction is a prime example of the type of triggering content that can intensify self-harm and suicidal thoughts in a person suffering from depression and mental illness. In fact, suicide contagion is a known consequence of portrayals such as Paul’s. Suicide contagion, more commonly referred to as “copycat suicides,” is the “exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors through one’s peer group, or through media reports” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In under 24 hours, Paul’s video accumulated over six million views before it was taken down, and likely has been seen by thousands more thanks to those who felt the need to repost the video of someone’s dead body. That’s millions of people who have been exposed to suicide: one of the most severe instances possible. In present day society, the media withholds extreme power, and Paul gravely abused his influence over millions of young adolescents. A costly mistake that could play a huge role in life and death of many.
Countless influencers, Youtubers, celebrities and psychologists have condemned Paul for the lack of humanity and sensitivity shown in his vlog. Against the cries and demands for the termination of his channel, Paul’s following, which he refers to as the Logang, continues to adamantly defend him. One young member of the Logang, who calls himself Zircon, argues, “Just like with your parents, maybe on Christmas, they bought you the wrong PC that you wanted. Everyone makes mistakes, and you just have to forgive them because you love them”. It’s challenging to ignore the devastating difference in severity of these two issues. While one contemplates the life and death of others, the other one only considers one’s own satisfaction. “Everyone needs to stop criticizing him, after all he is going through a huge loss too, he lost his streak of uploading,” says Zircon. Logan Paul’s influence on his young followers has blinded them to support the insensitive things he does on a daily basis. And in turn, the unrelenting praise and encouragement from his subscribers has drastically distorted his morality.
Becoming and embodying the essence of a daily vlogger has driven YouTubers such as Paul himself to always strive to achieve the next big thing. They go to great lengths for the thrill, but primarily the large salary they can earn from monetizing their content. The once innocent platform of Youtube now finds itself plagued with countless toxic, yet highly influential videos. It continues to astound and baffle millions as they struggle to understand what kind of inhumane or abusive experience would cause an entertainer to expose and use the sorrowful death of another to gain fame and glory. Mental illness is not to be taken as a strategy to gain views. Suicide is never something to joke about. And most importantly, explicitly sharing a human being’s death for millions of people to view does not give one the right to claim mental health awareness and forgiveness.
Graphic By: Eve Scarborough