MULVIHILL: The invincibility myth of the internet

Logan Paul and his peers demonstrate the darker side of online freedom

op-LoganPaul-CourtesyLoganPaul

YouTube celebrity Logan Paul was initially rewarded for his behavior online but his video featuring the “Suicide Forest” has resulted in severe consequences. 

Courtesy Logan Paul

On Dec. 29, YouTube celebrity Logan Paul posted a video to his channel depicting a trip into Japan’s Aokigahara forest, best known for the frequent number of suicide attempts which occur in the midst of the lush landscape. Paul proceeded to discover a dead body and interact with it on video, in what Paul believed to be a humorous stunt. Though the video received many views — as Paul aims to do with his stunts — it rightfully ignited an outcry against the YouTuber for his disrespect and inappropriate behavior. Paul eventually removed the video from the site and issued an apology, but his antics and those of other similar YouTube stars bring up important questions about the online behavior of users, both young and old. Paul’s video also serves as a dangerous example of the invincibility many users feel online and the consequences he will face should caution users against the belief that rules — both moral and legal — do not apply to online behavior.

In recent years, YouTube has become a popular platform for young adults seeking attention and popularity in the internet age. Particularly after the collapse of social platform Vine, on which Paul originated his online career, the website has been home to a host of channels featuring stunts and controversial behavior. Paul was initially rewarded for his behavior online but his video featuring the “Suicide Forest” has resulted in severe consequences. The fallout from Paul’s actions demonstrates that, though many young YouTubers believe themselves to be invincible, rude behavior online can have drastic consequences. Furthermore, Paul’s video can serve as a lesson for his fans. If YouTube users continue to view destructive videos, they enable the creators of those videos and drive said creators to push the limits even further. 

Paul’s video stunt and the subsequent fall-out related to the post should serve as a cautionary tale to young users who believe that internet behavior has no consequences. Before his stunt, Paul’s videos received premium ad revenue and he was connected to a number YouTube original projects including both television shows and movies. He also had a scripted series in the works with French production company, Blackpills. As of Jan. 11, Paul had been dropped from all of these opportunities and had decided to take a hiatus from content creation. At the height of his popularity, some estimated that Paul earned up to $1.3 million per month from his work on YouTube. Currently, YouTube has cut all ties with Paul, aside from deleting his channel altogether and the content creator has felt some consequences of his reckless actions online. However, though YouTube has severed most ties with Paul, his actions showed fundamental flaws in the ways YouTube monitors its users. Paul’s video clearly violated YouTube’s policies against violent content but the video was not taken down by the website. Paul was ultimately the one to take down the video and many of his fans still support him, regardless of his decisions. In the future, YouTube should strive to more carefully monitor its content creators to ensure that its policies are not violated. Additionally, in the case of a violation as severe as Paul’s, content creators should face fines and other penalties. 

Paul should also serve as a reminder to young children and adults who hope to use the internet as a platform to gain attention. Since users can post content without interacting face-to-face with viewers, it is easy to become removed from one’s actions online. Paul and many other YouTube personalities have been shunned by the public for online behavior that, though not illegal in many instances, violates the moral code of their viewers. Recently, another popular YouTuber, Shane Dawson, found himself in hot water when his controversial comments on pedophilia resurfaced. The internet has bred a sense of invincibility among many of its users, who have profited from outrageous stunts online. These stunts performed by Paul and other content creators can also set a bad example for impressionable young viewers who come to see YouTubers as role models. Young internet users must see that bad behavior online does have consequences for many content creators. 

Though some may say I am calling for limits on the free speech of YouTube users like Paul and Dawson by warning against similar behavior online, I would argue that being cautious with one’s online behavior can only have positive results. Many employers check social media profiles of prospective hires and, though the average Facebook, Instagram or YouTube user does not act like Paul, many don’t realize how destructive behavior online can harm future opportunities. Paul’s horrific video and the consequences the YouTuber faced only demonstrate that online behavior can have serious consequences and that the invincibility many users feel online is a myth.

Carly Mulvihill is the Senior Associate Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at c.mulvihill@cavalierdialy.com

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