The new ‘role models’?

A new year, and with it a new bout of controversy from a famous YouTuber. This time from Logan Paul, who decided to share with his army of devoted subscribers a graphic video in which he finds the corpse of a man who committed suicide in Aokigahara forest (a sacred Japanese site at the base of Mount Fuji).

Not to anyone’s surprise, it was received terribly. The result: many asking for him to be removed from YouTube permanently, and paving the way for many to reconsider the question of what responsibility content creators have online.

The problem is that YouTubers were normal people once, just like you and me, but then a handful got famous and started to have a much larger influence on their audience and worldwide. Logan Paul did something idiotic and then shared it with 16+ million other people, meaning it becomes a much deeper problem than just a young person being stupid with their friends.

Those with a big following online, whether they like it or not, become role models to their audience, especially if like Paul, they have predominately young viewers.

This is just the latest in a string of incidents where famous YouTubers have faced a backlash. In December, another famous YouTube star, Zoella, who is often labelled as ‘squeaky clean’ by the press, faced criticism when she released a homeware and beauty style advent calendar, retailing at £50, with many left unimpressed with the quality of the items and the fact it only had 12 windows.

Zoella blamed the high price point on the retailers, but Boots, who were selling the calendar, stated that the price (RRP) is set by the manufacturer, suggesting that she did have a part to play.

It was argued, considering her audience, like Paul’s, is largely made up of viewers under 18, it was unreasonable to retail something for such a high price point when it generally would’ve been parents forking out the cash. Three issues have become apparent from these two incidents and many others like it. The first is that YouTubers clearly have a great deal of responsibility to make sure that their content is not offensive or inappropriate to their audience and fits with the guidelines set out by YouTube.

The second is that YouTubers need to try as hard as possible not to take advantage of their loyal fanbase. Selling advent calendars for £50 when most students don’t even have £50 left in their bank account by Christmas time was clearly a bad move.

Of course, many YouTubers sell merchandise and tickets for meets and greets, but they should know that it’s hypocritical to charge extortionate prices when it’s their viewers that made them famous on a free platform in the first place. Lastly, it suggests that YouTube needs to better regulate creators content on their platform. Logan Paul’s video should never have been allowed on YouTube when the issue at hand is something so sensitive.

It’s inevitable that mistakes are made by those unaware of the responsibility their popularity brings. But YouTube and its admired stars need to make more of an effort to respect their viewers and recognise the influence they hold.


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August 2021
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