Logan Paul's desensitised reaction is systematic of wider issues in the online community Wikipedia commons

Famous youtuber Logan Paul has sparked uproar within the YouTube community for his most recent video in which he films the body of a suicide victim in extraordinarily close proximity, to the horror of fellow creators.

Paul is one of YouTube’s largest creators, with over 15.5 million subscribers at just 22 years old. In his latest video, he and his team explore Japan’s Aokigahara forest, known as a ‘suicide forest’ for the large number of victims who take their lives there each year. Here, they came across the body of a victim hanging from a tree. The video and its reception stand as an example for how the internet is evolving more widely, how the explosion of social media has desensitised us to such events, and also demonstrates how YouTube as a platform has changed over the years.

“What is most interesting about this case is how it represents a shift within YouTube more widely”

Common human decency dictates that in such a situation, one puts the cameras away and calls the relevant authorities. Unfortunately, Paul’s moral compass seemed to have been askew that day, and he continued to film extremely close to the body, even commenting on the victim’s purpling hands from just feet away. Much of the backlash targeted his demeanour: his laughter and the jokes he was making throughout the video. At one point one of his team says he doesn’t feel good, to which Paul responds, “What, you never stand next to a dead guy?” and then breaks into laughter.

One can understand this in some ways, often in uncomfortable situations we laugh or smile and can’t explain why, it is a common response to shocking or uncomfortable news. However, he did not live stream this response. He went through a process of importing files, editing, reviewing, exporting and uploading the video – why leave these insensitive jokes in?

It seems the only answer is that he has become desensitised to such circumstances by his exposure to the internet. Everyone is working to create something bigger, better, more insane than what came before, and this mentality is extremely damaging to creators and society as a whole. Instead of seeing a victim, a man suffering so intensely that he saw his only option as taking his own life, Paul saw a story, something that would spark the interest of his viewers. And it did. The video received 600,000 likes before it was deleted. The issue is not only with the creator, but with the audience, desensitised by their exposure to the online world.

“He is sensationalising the event to spark interest and keep people watching”

This leads us to the issue of the thirst for views, followers and likes that permeates our generation. Paul exploits the body for views, most clearly demonstrated in his use of it in the thumbnail of the video. This form of ‘clickbait’ has become increasingly common among creators on YouTube – after all, the catchier the thumbnail and title the more views you will get, and the more ad revenue you will receive.

Paul even ends the video by asking people to subscribe, and closed his initial (inadequate) apology with the hashtag ‘Logang4life’. He goes as far as to say that his video will make ‘YouTube history’. Again, he is sensationalising the event to spark interest and keep people watching, and the most disturbing thing is he doesn’t seem to realise that what he is doing is wrong. He thinks his response is normal. All of this while we must remember, the body was once a living, suffering human being, before he became Paul’s most recent marketing trick.


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What is most interesting about this case is how it represents a shift within YouTube more widely. When YouTube was first created, it was a place for misfits and small creators alike to express themselves on a free and inclusive platform. Many creators spoke up on issues of mental health, eating disorders and abusive relationships and encouraged their viewers to find the support they needed and follow a path of self-acceptance. One of the most notable impacts of YouTube was on the LGBTQ+ community; creators shared coming out stories, and provided information on topics such as gender identity and the spectrum of sexuality that is often elided from teaching in schools.

But now? YouTube has become a business, focussed on advertisement revenue and profit, and the platform isn’t entirely in the hands of the creators. This is clear in YouTube’s response to Paul’s video. He hit the trending page, and YouTube did not delete the video. Why? Because Logan Paul provides YouTube with huge profits, and, as Philip DeFranco suggests, they did not want to touch their ‘golden boy’. In contrast, last year saw many LGBTQ+ channels put under restricted mode, as well as individual videos being demonetised. Creators and viewers must fight to retain the positive aspects of the platform, and resist the widespread takeover that favours large channels and threatens the very creators that made YouTube great.

The internet is a wonderful thing. It allows us to connect and share and is a force for good – but only if we use it in the right way. Logan Paul and his actions are just one example of systematic issues that have developed on YouTube and online more widely.

Below are some hotlines for anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, or other mental health difficulties. Reach out and find the help you need.

Samaritans: 08457 909090

Depression Alliance: 0845 123 23 20

Mind: 0300 123 3393

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