By Anya Srivats
As app after app surfaces, we have started attaching a certain worth to the 15-year-old who lip syncs on TikTok or performs a 1 minute long Instagram “comedy sketch.” Because of these platforms, 15 minutes of fame can turn into 15 weeks, 15 months, or even more. Suddenly the requirements for fame have drastically decreased, giving way for potential role models to have a platform on social media without being properly vetted for whether or not they can actually impart positive values through their content.
Viner and Instagram comedian Logan Paul gained fame through his short videos and features with Lele Pons and other popular social media influencers. As his social media presence grew in size, Paul was propelled to fame and landed features in TV and movies. However, in early 2018, Paul released a video in which he filmed a dead body in Aokigahara, the Japanese forest notorious for suicides, sparking outrage over his disrespectful behavior and joke-making online. His primary platform, YouTube, released a series of tweets condemning his behavior, implying that Paul’s career as a social media influencer was over. However, as the year progressed, despite other scandals arising such as Paul’s disrespectful behavior as a tourist in Japan, it became evident that Logan was not losing his following. Eventually he released a teaser for his new YouTube Red movie, The Thinning 2.
Influencers like Logan Paul pose a problem in the new generation of social media stars. Given such new forms of social media, people who may be too immature or ignorant of the consequences of their actions are given wide-reaching platforms. The content being produced is designed for shock value. Logan Paul, who disrespected a suicide victim as well as an entire country’s culture, continues to be one of the most popular influencers on the Internet.
This issue stems from target demographics. Influencers like Jake Paul zone in on a significantly younger user demographic. Jake Paul, Logan Paul’s brother, identified his demographic viewer base as 8 to 16-year-olds. According to research published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, adolescent behavior is a mirror image of their role models’ behavior, good or bad. When members of such an impressionable age group is watching adults be destructive and callous for the sake of a video, they are being told that it is okay to behave the same way as their role models.
Older consumers have a responsibility stop influencers who exploit less mature or less informed younger generations. Although these platforms can’t stop objectionable people from creating content altogether, consumers can reduce the impact of these influencers by taking platforms away from them. All it takes is more awareness and introspection of the content being consumed. It’s not just rules and regulations, it’s us. While it’s human nature to pay attention to content based on shock value, the only way to take the spotlight off of negative role models is to shine it on influencers sharing values that reflect more positive messages.