YouTube sensation Logan Paul posted a video on the eve of 2018. Veering off-brand from his usual content, the video showed him and his crew in Aokigahara forest – a site in Japan known as the ‘suicide forest’.
They discover a dead body, decide to film it, laugh, and post it to Paul’s 16-million+ subscribers.
Here’s everything wrong with the video and what we can learn from thinking we can share everything online. FYI: we shouldn’t.
1 Posting violent content can be re-triggering
How dare you! You disgust me. I can't believe that so many young people look up to you. So sad. Hopefully this latest video woke them up. You are pure trash. Plain and simple. Suicide is not a joke. Go rot in hell.
— Aaron Paul (@aaronpaul_8) January 2, 2018
The Internet is unpredictable: we’re constantly exposed to traumatic material curated to brutally grab our attention in a sea of content. Violent content is normalised through the media and the more we consume, the more we get desensitised to what we’re seeing. We rarely hear about the consequences of producing and distributing traumatic images but one of them is being re-triggered.
Showing a video where suicide is treated as a spectacle is likely to re-traumatise people who have been affected by suicide. If you have anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental-health issues, being re-triggered can take your mind back to the time and place of a trauma.
2 Everybody deserves dignity
Death is an intensely private and intimate experience – at least, that’s the dignity everyone should be afforded. The victim filmed on camera wasn’t able to speak out against the deep invasion of privacy. The victim did not allow for the violation of boundaries and space, or consent to being filmed in an intensely vulnerable moment. Disrespecting that space only perpetuates how we normalise stigma around suicide and mental health.
Living or not, dignity is something we should all be afforded and it’s for free.
3 Some things are better left unsaid
You don’t go waltzing into another country with its own set of values, traditions and customs, and re-contextualise and mock that culture for likes. Yet, it happens, and Paul is a perfect example of why it needs to stop.
with all that said, here goes:
Logan Paul, a wealthy white american man, walked onto hallowed ground to film a vlog and bank off the ~spooky~ suicide forest, and then laughed as he traipsed through what is essentially a renowned mass grave, even as he came across a human body.
— libby (@flavordays) January 2, 2018
In a world where the lines between private and public are constantly blurred with social media and technology, we’re documenting everything we experience and the people we experience it with.
The video is a sober reminder that we aren’t entitled to somebody else’s experience or culture just because we’re fascinated and curious about it.
4 Suicide victims are people
When my brother found my sister’s body, he screamed with horror & confusion & grief & tried to save her. That body was a person someone loved.
You do not walk into a suicide forest with a camera and claim mental health awareness.
— Anna Akana (@AnnaAkana) January 2, 2018
As Anna Akana put it, ‘You do not walk into a suicide forest and claim mental-health awareness.’ Raising awareness for mental-health illnesses involves sensitivity, initiatives and dialogue.
YouTubers have a lot of influence. It would be easy to say that we need to take everything we see on the Internet with a pinch of salt but when 16-million people are directly informed by your content, staying accountable and doing better is NB.
Paul seemed unconcerned that the filmed victim was someone’s child, friend, partner or co-worker. The victim was represented as a nameless and faceless body to make a larger, misguided ‘point’ about mental health.
The damage of the video is that it carelessly forgets that suicide victims are people and have entire stories that can be misrepresented by someone else telling them.
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