Popular YouTuber Logan Paul has recently been under fire in the news and online for a video he uploaded on Dec. 31, 2017. Paul began gaining popularity on YouTube’s platform within this past year, and has accumulated an audience of nearly 15 million subscribers over his time on it.
Paul is known for uploading daily vlogs — which are 10 to 15 minute video blogs that document his daily life. In the vlog under discussion, Paul and his friends make their way to the Aokigahara Forest located at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. This forest, which translates to the ‘Sea of Trees’ but is more commonly referred to as the Suicide Forest, is known for being the second most popular place in the world to take one’s own life (falling second to the Golden Gate Bridge in California).
Hundreds of lives have been lost to suicide in its perimeters and the number of deaths recorded seem to only be increasing, according to recent data.
The forest is described as being vast and eerily quiet, littered with artifacts left by the departed and their loved ones. The main trails of the forest are lined with signs that urge hikers to think of their families and friends, providing messages of hope and suicide hotlines that encouraging seeking further help. The depths of the forest are also marked with tape and ribbon that were placed by volunteers, so that suicidal individuals could find their way back to the main trail should they decide against ending their life.
Due to the immense amount of lives that have been lost on its grounds, the forest is believed to be the home of many ghosts, spirits and paranormal activity in general.
Paul had been documenting his trip to Japan on his channel when he decided to visit this forest. Upon arrival in the parking lot, Paul proposed his initial plans of a challenge: to camp in the forest overnight.
Although he was aware of the forest’s popular association with suicide, he claimed to only be interested in “the haunted aspect of the forest.”
To me, there was already a huge amount of disrespect shown by Paul in the premise of this video and in his treatment of the forest in general. He and his friends continuously made jokes about death, and Paul desperately reached at some form of comedy in repeatedly mixing up the words ‘Fuji’ “like the apple?” and ‘Fiji’ “the water.”
Visitors are told not to leave the trail for obvious reasons, and yet Logan and his friends venture directly into restricted territory.
After the video’s upload, Paul claimed that he didn’t film with the intent of gaining views (stating “I already get views”), but to claim that a challenge video would be filmed without the purpose of solely gaining views — or attention in general — is the farthest away from the truth that one could get.
Shockingly, these are not the only factors that contributed to why Paul is stamped all over the news recently.
While trekking in the forest to look for a “campsite,” Paul and his friends stumble upon a dead body hanging from a tree. Rather than stop filming however, they decide to document the entire event, including the corpse itself.
Although they blur out the victims face, Paul and his friends zoomed in on the body’s hands and torso, providing insensitive commentary in an obvious attempt to ‘lighten’ the situation. The actions don’t end there, as even after Paul leaves the site of the body, he decides to make jokes about the event that just occurred:
Friend: I don’t feel very good
Another friend: Yeah I don’t feel good either
Paul: What? You never stand next to a dead guy?
Paul defends these jokes by claiming that humor is his coping mechanism when dealing with tough situations. And in all honesty, this is a valid and real reaction that happens to many after experiencing something traumatic. However this would have been an okay explanation in any situation that wasn’t this one.
It might have been okay in any other situation where he doesn’t cut to a clip of himself saying “suicide is not a joke” after giggling at his own hashing of a death pun. Or in any other situation where he wasn’t exploiting an individual whose life was now gone, for what he claims to be “entertainment.” The reaction he had to a traumatic event was not his fault, but the active decisions to keep those reactions in the vlog was.
In less than a day, Paul’s video reached #1 on YouTube’s trending page and had over 6 million views. On Twitter, the reaction to the vlog was immediate. Celebrities, digital creators, mental health advocates, what felt like everyone spoke out against Paul and YouTube for allowing his video to be uploaded (let alone trending).
After the video’s upload and eventual deletion, Logan has uploaded two different apologies. The first of which was uploaded to twitter on Jan. 1 and was immediately criticized by the public. It stated:
Dear Internet, pic.twitter.com/42OCDBhiWg
— Logan Paul (@LoganPaul) January 2, 2018
Personally, I agree with the criticism of this tweet. It’s one thing to apologize about something you’ve done wrong, it’s another thing to continuously point out your supposed innocence and emphasize your popularity on the internet (and that you absolutely, did not do anything for the views). This apology seemed more like a reflection of Paul’s remorse over the criticism he was receiving rather than something he genuinely felt bad about.
I, like many many others, was honestly enraged about the entire situation. But as the YouTuber Philip DeFranco pointed out, there is more to this issue:
I could provide an in-depth analysis of everything Logan did wrong in this video. I could provide a list of a dozen of other things he could have done instead of uploading it the way he did. I could go on for hours about how unfair it is that Paul’s video was trending while so many other creators — who are LGBTQ+ or who actually advocate for mental health awareness or who have done absolutely nothing wrong — have had to deal with demonetization and having their videos removed from the platform. But in all honesty, I don’t think that would do much of anything for anyone (besides maybe provide me with some much needed anger relief).
So, rather than do any of those options, I’m instead going to focus on two things: 1) the idolization of individuals — celebrity or not — and how that idolization can become harmful, and 2) the importance of mental health awareness and education.
One of the most alarming aspects of this situation is the reaction of Logan’s fans. I’m sure we all have our obsessions, many of which probably even include people such as: singers, actors, writers, dancers, YouTubers, etc.
When you become infatuated with someone in this way, you also tend to become willing to go to the ends of the earth in order to to defend them, even when — especially when — they have done something inexplicably wrong. We often feel as if we know these people in real life, when in reality we probably only know a small fraction of who they truly are. This phenomenon can be seen in Paul’s fans.
A majority of Paul’s audience consists of impressionable children and young adults, most of whom are willing to defend Paul’s every move. When the extreme backlash on Twitter occurred in response to his video, Paul’s fans were just as quick in firing back and claiming his innocence.
Paul has since told his fans not to defend his actions (in his apology video uploaded on Jan. 2), however, the fact that their immediate reaction to something — that is without a doubt not ok — was to defend it is a perfect reflection of how idolizing someone can quickly become harmful.
We have seen this exact situation happen repeatedly for years, whether it be with other YouTubers (like Sam Pepper) or with the recent sexual assault allegations made against so many previously ‘loved’ celebrities.
Sometimes we are so blinded by our love for something that we don’t realize the harm that it is causing, whether that be to our own awareness or to something (or someone) else. I think the events of this video have been a harsh reminder for everyone to be more aware of our actions. Do I think that Paul was specifically trying to be malicious with this video? Not really. But do I think that he was specifically doing something “crazy” and “extreme” in order to gain attention and garner more views and subscribers? Absolutely.
I’m going to end all of this by emphasizing the true importance of mental health awareness. I find it slightly ironic that, of the few current articles I’ve been able to write for HS Insider, one was about mental health and illness awareness and one was about YouTube, and now I’m writing about a twisted combination of the two.
I obviously go into more depth about this issue in the mental health article, but I want to further reiterate the importance of it now. There is a huge stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health around the world, even though mental health struggles and mental illnesses continue to be prevalent in our society today.
Suicide is amongst one of these issues and according to the World Health Organization “close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.”
One of the only positive things to come from the entirety of this situation would have to be the overwhelming amount of advocacy shown by the public in seeking help with your mental health. Suicide is a very real and very prominent issue in our daily lives.
Depression and anxiety affect a huge amount of the world’s population. These mental illnesses are not something to be ashamed of, but because of the heavily negative connotations our society has created surrounding them, so many people are hesitant to reach out for help.
Additionally, these issues aren’t something that we talk about in schools or in general, so there is also a large amount of people who are simply ignorant in regards to these subjects as a whole.
If you are currently struggling with your mental health, know that there are resources out there to help you. Know that these struggles are completely normal and ok, and that reaching out for help isn’t something to be frowned upon, but rather something that is absolutely necessary in order to get better.
To anyone who has been affected by suicide, whether that be in your own personal struggles or the loss of a loved one, my heart goes out to you. I’m sorry that a story like this blew up with such vigor about a topic that truly does hit close to home for so many people.
To any fans of Logan Paul, we are not shaming you over something that you love, but rather reprimanding the horrendous actions of someone who needs to be held accountable for them.
Linked below are resources which contain further information about the Aokigahara Forest. Additionally, there is a link to the list of international suicide hotlines for anybody who may need them:
- Aokigahara Forest video and more information
- International Suicide Hotlines