An Open Letter to Logan Paul
TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST DEALS WITH SUICIDE AND HAS SOME GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS IN IT
On January 1st of this year, I logged on to my Twitter account to catch up on the latest news and wish everyone a Happy New Year. Instead, I learned that there was a lot of controversy surrounding a YouTuber and a video. That YouTuber was you and that video was of you showing a dead body in Japan’s “Suicide Forest”.
I didn’t watch the video and I never will. I did, unfortunately, see a screen shot of you standing in the foreground with a body hanging in the background. I will never unsee that image.
There’s something else you should know about January 1st. It’s the two year anniversary of the day that my high school best friend died from suicide. He was an EMS/First Responder and he suffered from PTSD, as many first responders do. You see, they are the first to arrive on the scene in the face of tragedy and they are tasked with trying to save lives. It’s stressful and often they fail and lives are lost. It’s a heavy burden to carry day in and day out. And my dear friend couldn’t carry that burden any longer. He was married and had children. He had friends that loved him. He is mourned and missed daily. Your video was the slap in his face, in his family’s face, in mine. It was an all too painful reminder on a day that was already so hard for us all.
You should also know that I am the parent of a teenager who works with teenagers. My teenage daughter has watched me struggle with my own mental health issues and there was a summer a few years ago where I too struggled with suicidal ideation. A few months ago she received a text in the middle of the night from a friend who said that he was going to end his life. She has been impacted in a variety of ways by the issue of suicide.
She looked at me a couple of days after your video went up and told me that many of her friends were talking about you on social media, and none of them were okay. You see, 1 in 4 people struggles with mental health. Even teenagers. This means the people who watch your videos and support you are somehow facing the issue of mental health, suicidal ideation and suicide. It could be them. It could be their family member. It could be a friend. But every single person who has watched your video has probably been affected by the issues that you made fun of.
Everyone loves a good joke. Humor makes life tolerable. But somethings are just not funny, suicide is one of those things. There is great shame and stigma associated with mental health and suicide. In some cultural and religious traditions it is still believed that a person who commits suicide will burn in hell. Surviving family members struggle with guilt and grief and shame and stigma. They wonder what they could have done differently, what signs they may have missed, if they had done just that one thing if that person would still be with them today. And yet you stood in front of a body hanging in a forest, violating that person, his friends and family and their pain, and any other person who has struggled with this issue in any way. It was vile, disgusting and offensive. It was crass and opportunistic. It was unethical and vulgar.
It was dangerous.
1 in 4. 1 in 4 of the kids and teens who watched that video are themselves struggling with the issues that you mocked in your video. That means you were making fun and joking about 1 in 4 of your viewers. You harmed them. You used them. You violated them.
I am someone who uses social media and has an online presence. I have now for about six years. I have learned a lot in those six years and changed the ways that I do some things. I continue to learn. But the reality is, when you choose to go public you have a great responsibility in way you do with that. Words have weight and meaning. Actions have consequences. By choosing to live such a public life you are also choosing to increase your influence in the world and the ways in which you help shape or destroy our world. You are popular with young, growing minds who are trying to figure out who they are, what they believe, and how they will lives their lives. There is a responsibility that comes with that and you failed them. And because you failed in your responsibility, you do not deserve it. When you break trust, you have to work harder to regain it and maintain it. Right now, you do not deserve that trust. You broke faith.
And outside of the suicide issue, you went and mocked another culture. You boarded a plane and choose to make fun of and ridicule an entire people group and culture. Again, you hurt your fans. You mocked those who live in or share a Japanese heritage. And you reinforced negative views and racist stereotypes in the minds of growing youth. Maybe you are not aware, but racism and hatred are huge issues in our country and in our world and you did nothing to help make the world a more positive place. Your video is everything that is wrong with our world: you choose hits and likes and popularity and money over people, and that is despicable.
At the end of the day, it is people that matter. We must care for and about one another. We must work together to build a community. We must take responsibility for actions and understand the ways that the parts can affect the whole. Until you can do that, I hope you never get another hit on a video again.
It took me a week to be able to even talk about how the events of last week affected me. I had to give myself the space to feel once again the loss of my friend. But after talking to my daughter and hearing what her and her friends were struggling with, I knew I could not remain silent. I hope you listen to your fans and understand that you have hurt them in very real ways.
Filed under: Suicide
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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