For those of us too old to know who Logan Paul is, the news that the YouTube star enraged the social media world with a horrific post Sunday elicited little more than a shrug.
If we’d cared to inquire, our questions would have been the same ones that out-of-touch adults always ask about pop culture celebs: “Why should I know him?” “He did what now?” And the classic: “Who?”
Quick bio: Paul is a social media sensation and has been for years — first on Vine, where he found stardom in six-second videos, then on YouTube, where Paul’s channel now boasts more than 15.4 million subscribers. Imagine Jeff Spicoli of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” with his own daily reality show and you get the gist.
Why should you care? Because in all likelihood, while you were digging your car out of a drift Friday morning, your kids were spending their snow day watching one or more of Paul’s videos.
Take, for example, the 22-year-old’s year-in-review piece, modestly titled “Why 2017 Was the Best Year of My Life,” which got more than 9.5 million views in a week. (For comparison’s sake, the “Game of Thrones” finale in August drew 12.1 million viewers the night it aired, and it’s the most popular show on HBO.)
In the video, Paul touted his enormous success and catalogued his recent big-ticket purchases: a $6.5 million mansion, a giant truck he calls the Yeti, the requisite Rolex.
“Anyway, 2017 was the year of Logan Paul,” he bragged, high-fiving squealing fans as he strutted down a street in Los Angeles. “Ya boy put a dent in the universe this year.”
In fact, with 2.8 billion online views, he did put a dent in something, namely, the free time of his tween and teen fans around the world. Paul’s bro-y lifestyle brand seems to transfix young people wherever WiFi is available. In November, a meet-and-greet with the social media star drew 11,000 screaming fans to a mall . . . in Dubai.
So when he and his camera crew posted a video Sunday called “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest,” which showed graphic footage of a suicide victim hanging from a tree near Mount Fuji, it was news.
The backlash was intense. Media watchers evicerated Paul, railing that he’d exploited a stranger’s suicide for YouTube views, that he was a disrespectful and insensitive lout who’d stop at nothing to keep his fans — dubbed “the Logang” —coming back for more.
He soon deleted the video, but not before it had been viewed more than 6.3 million times, according to New York magazine’s Select All blog. He then posted a video apology, which by Friday had been viewed a stunning 29 million times.
“I want to apologize to the Internet,” Paul said, speaking to the camera. “I want to apologize to anyone who’s seen the video, I want to apologize to anyone who has been affected or touched by mental illness or depression or suicide. But most importantly, I want to apologize to the victim and his family.
“For my fans who are defending my actions: please don’t,” he continued.
The fact that even a handful of middle schoolers don’t see a problem with Paul videotaping a suicide victim and posting it online is troubling. But more disturbing is that a lot of parents have never heard of Logan Paul or, at best, have only have a foggy notion of who he is.
He’s in the spotlight now for heartless behavior and astonishingly poor judgment. But he’s also been posting video after video, day after day, for years, his antics fed directly into the earbuds and eyeballs of kids pretty much everywhere.
Most of it is undoubtedly drivel, the same moronic stuff that adolescents (including this former adolescent) have always enjoyed. But really, I don’t know for sure. Splintered media makes it far too easy for me, or anyone outside the target audience, to ignore Paul and his fellow vloggers.
Millions of kids — including mine — are trying to make sense of what they’re seeing.
That’s not something any of us should shrug off.Hayley Kaufman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.