Opinion

Logan Paul is a reminder of the responsibility social influencers have towards their audiences

In the wake of the Logan Paul suicide video controversy, Ashleigh Bruton, senior strategist at The Remarkables Group, considers the duty of care influencers have over their audience.

There was a major YouTube incident over the last few days you may not be aware of. But I guarantee, if you have children over the age of 11 at home, or sub 25-year-olds on your team, they know all about it. Ask them now.

Logan Paul is a highly recognisable face on YouTube. He has amassed a YouTube audience of over 15 million subscribers and has partnered with brands such as PepsiCo, Disney, HBO, Dunkin Donuts. All have since denounced him.

For those not familiar with what happened, on a trip to Japan, Logan visited the infamous Aokigahara, or, as it is commonly known, the Suicide Forest. During his 15-minute vlog of this trip, he stumbled across a man who had committed suicide.

A shocking event for anybody to have to come across, instead of turning his camera off, he can be seen yelling at the deceased body ‘Yo, are you alive?’ and then laughing hysterically.

Logan then uploaded it with the title ‘WE FOUND A DEAD BODY’ to his YouTube channel which is home to 15 million subscribers, mostly between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. The video received 6 million views within eight hours of being uploaded.

Whether you are an Instagrammer, YouTuber or blogger or have any sort of social following on any channel, you have power. You have the power to infiltrate the homes of every single one of your followers. Some use this power very wisely, and some are still very much in the mentality of ‘doing it for the Vine’.

This past week YouTuber Logan Paul has come to realise exactly how much influence he had and how far the reach of his actions would take him.

The backlash Logan received caused him to remove the video after it had been live for eight hours and then issue a first apology. A rather ghastly apology. His second apology – a 1 minute 45 second video, receiving 40 million views – was then monetised. YouTube was slow to respond to this and only very recently said they would be cutting professional ties with Logan Paul.

This controversy has raised a very important question of what responsibilities lie with influencers when creating content for their audience – and their advertisers.

Influencers are experts at navigating their audiences and connecting with consumers on an emotional level. As role models who are influencing the lives and thoughts of young people, this never should have happened.

Australian blogger Woogsworld tweeted her 12-year-old son  was lying in bed crying with her after watching the video where you can clearly see the lifeless body. The effects of this video were felt world-wide and there were many young children and teenagers who as a result of this video either learnt what suicide was or saw an actual dead body for the first and hopefully only time.

Influencers, whether their audience is significant or small, impact the lives of everybody who watches their content. They do have a responsibility – both to their audience and their advertisers – to ensure what they are publishing is not harmful or offensive.

It is my hope for the future other young influencers such as Logan Paul will realise the force their content can have and will fully understand the responsibility they carry for their audience.

On a positive note, this is a good opportunity to talk to any young people in your life about the topic of suicide. It is a devastating circumstance to happen to anyone and their families. And if anything should arise, services such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 can help.

Ashleigh Bruton is senior strategist at The Remarkables Group.

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