If the Internet has taught us anything, it is this: it can make people instantly famous, but it can also just as quickly make them infamous.
Such was what happened with YouTube superstar and actor Logan Paul recently. Paul first attained fame in the now-defunct Vine, a video hosting site similar to YouTube, where he posted 6-second video loops of himself that were wacky. He eventually started vlogging in YouTube where he quickly gained tons of fans. Today, he has a massive audience of more than 15 million followers. He is known for creating outrageous, goofy, and sometimes irreverent content. This paid off very well for him, literally earning him over $14 million in ad revenue for his videos last year.
But on New Year’s Eve, he went way too far. He visited Japan with his crew to film an episode in the infamous Aokigahara Forest, also known as the “Suicide Forest” or the “Sea of Trees”, at the foot of Mount Fuji. It is a well-known cite for suicides in Japan. After trekking for a few meters into the forest, they encountered a man hanging from one of the trees. Instead of turning off his camera, he went on to take a footage of the corpse. He did this several times, even zooming in at the subject. He commented that the man probably died recently because his hands were still purple. As if that was not shocking enough, he joked about the whole thing and made light of the situation, adding insult to injury. He then uploaded the video to YouTube where it stayed for a whole day, garnering more than 6 million views as reported by Wired, before he decided to delete it.
The backlash that followed after in Twitter and around social media was swift and severe. Fellow YouTube star PewDiePie criticized Paul for being insensitive and mocked him in a Tweet. Casey Neistat also joined in to say that Paul should have used the occasion of his public apology to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention by interviewing experts on those issues, providing resources on suicide prevention for his mostly under-aged audience, or donating money to non-profit organizations that deal with people who are depressed or deal with mental illness. Jesse Welle’s reaction was more severe for he and others like him have lost their parents to depression and suicide. Even celebrities like Sophie Turner added her voice to the condemnation. In her Tweet, she did not mince her words. Calling him an “idiot”, she criticized his non-apology for being superficial and egocentric.
And it doesn’t end there. As reported in the BBC today, YouTube has decided to cut the cord to Paul’s lucrative ad deals. His channel earned its revenue from YouTube’s Google Preferred, which is an ad program that allows big companies and corporations to advertise on the channels of the top 5% of content creators in YouTube. The video sharing platform has also apparently put an end to Paul’s acting career. The star has appeared in YouTube Red’s sci-fi film The Thinning and the comedy series Foursome. Now, Paul will no longer be part of those projects.
In a world where anyone can become a star almost overnight, the Internet has shown that with a single move as mindless, insensitive, and shocking as what Logan Paul did in Japan, one can just as quickly earn notoriety.