The internet hates Logan Paul. And for good reason.
When the YouTuber stumbled upon a dead body in Aokigahara, AKA Japan’s suicide forest, he didn’t leave, turn off his camera or remove his goofy three-eyed alien hat. Instead, Paul filmed his “raw” reaction for his fans. (Pre-click warning: the video is vile).
After that raw reaction was met with horror and outrage, Paul removed the video and apologized, but not before social media hordes called for YouTube to boot Paul and demonetize his video channels.
The rage is justified but the video wasn’t exactly surprising. Of course Paul trivialized suicide. He trivializes everything in life in an effort to monetize relatability.
Boredom drives Paul’s celebrity. Kids’ boredom, specifically. His daily vlogs are 15-minute rapid fire edited comedic snapshots created for kids wasting time on the internet. Paul (and his brother Jake) appeal to their millions of subscribers’ internet fascination and general boredom all at once. In doing so, he’s capitalized on the momentary focus the internet cultivates.
And he’s far from alone—a 2015 survey conducted by USC’s Jeetendr Sehdev explored the prominence of YouTube stars among millennials. People like PewDiePie are as influential and popular as music superstars like Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. As with Paul, these YouTubers found fame from countless likes and views on disposable content designed for the internet’s most vulnerable and impressionable users. As the survey explains, teenagers’ emotional attachment to their favorite YouTube stars dwarfs that of traditional celebs because of an inherent “relatability.”
The word itself is absurd. Relatability is totally individualistic. What’s relatable to you may be completely alienating to me, and vice versa. What Paul and other YouTubers thrive on is not relatability—it’s the notion that they’re open to broadcasting every moment of their “regular” lives. But their lives aren’t regular. They’re YouTube stars living in spacious apartments designed for creating content, and their videos are cut and edited to the point of insanity.
Paul creates the short attention span-geared content our parents probably worried the internet would rot our brains with. It’s expendable, dumb and rewarded monetarily based on views and clicks. It literally pays to be disposable and constant, regardless of what human conflicts or emotions you might stomp on along the way. And if you thrive off one of the internet’s worst qualities, you expose yourself to another—internet outrage.
Folks on Twitter and other social media get a little out of hand when something upsets them. It makes sense, really. The internet’s presentness allows users to overlook whatever context or nuance they deem unworthy. If someone famous does something that offends them, they attack. Celebrities and online figures constantly face over-the-top social media barrages, even when what they did wasn’t all that bad. One such celebrity is model Chrissy Teigen, who lamented Paul’s treatment despite condemning his actions.
Unlike non-YouTube celebrities such as Teigen, Paul’s entire life is based on his online presence. Teigen is an avid tweeter, but she could delete her Twitter tomorrow and still be famous. Paul, on the other hand, is a slave to the attention economy that both fosters tweenage internet fandom and vitriolic outrage.
None of this is to say Paul shouldn’t be criticized. The video is abhorrent, all the way down to its feigned empathy. He deserves whatever blowback he receives.
A person shouldn’t be defined by one action. But Paul’s video isn’t an aberration—recording and editing his life is the crux of his celebrity status. His job is to stay “relatable” by stripping away humanity bit by bit. It was only a matter of time until he removed it altogether.