Just last week, 22-year old YouTube personality Logan Paul posted a video to his vlog channel of his trip to Aokigahara, Japan, infamously known as the “suicide forest”. Unfortunately, Paul stumbled upon the body of a man who hung himself…and thought it was a good idea to include footage of the corpse in his video, with the title “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…”.
The video opens with Paul saying, ““This is not clickbait. This is the most real vlog I’ve ever posted to this channel. I think this definitely marks a moment in YouTube history because I’m pretty sure this has never hopefully happened to anyone on YouTube ever. Now with that said: Buckle the f*** up, because you’re never gonna see a video like this again!”
As Paul and his entourage walk through the forest, they come across a man hanging from a branch, to which he calls out, “Yo, are you alive?” When they realize it’s in fact a dead body, the video takes a (semi)serious turn, as he goes into the expected speech about suicide, and how serious depression and mental illness truly are.
Despite his denial of the video being “clickbait”, it’s fairly obvious that Paul knew uploading a video of a dead body onto the Internet would garner millions of views (6.3 million in its first 24 hours, to be exact). Those views translate into Paul’s paychecks.
Immediately, the Internet erupted into a firestorm of backlash over the insensitivity of exploiting a dead person for views. Celebrities, Internet personalities like Paul, and everyday people took to social media to voice their distaste at the disgraced Youtuber’s actions. “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul (not related to Logan Paul) was one of the many who tweeted their disapproval:
How dare you! You disgust me. I can’t believe that so many young people look up to you. So sad. Hopefully this latest video woke them up. You are pure trash. Plain and simple. Suicide is not a joke. Go rot in hell.
Others, such as actress Anna Akana, tweeted at Paul for his blatant insensitivity regarding such a heavy and emotional subject:
When my brother found my sister’s body, he screamed with horror & confusion & grief & tried to save her. That body was a person someone loved.
You do not walk into a suicide forest with a camera and claim mental health awareness.”
Paul issued a written apology over Twitter, as well as a video. But many see his actions as irreversible, the damage already done. He represents exactly what is wrong with today’s emerging Internet culture, and that video was the final straw.
Nowadays, today’s youth has an incessant need to capture everything on their phones, inspired by people like Logan Paul. If we have reached the point where an Internet celebrity can post his discovery of a corpse, where do we encounter a boundary? The video shows how desensitized we have become, just because we see it on the Internet and not in person. And Paul himself shows just how far today’s social media stars will go to stay relevant, to garner the views they so desperately need to seem interesting and exciting. The damage is irreversible, but hopefully Paul’s fall from grace can serve as a wake-up call as we look at the increasingly intrusive nature of social media and the role it plays in the lives of teens today.