I predicted the day before Logan Paul broke his YouTube hiatus and posted an educational video about suicide awareness that he’d so something along those lines.
Writing about Jake Paul, his younger brother who released a statement on the eve of Logan’s return, I said:
Logan may make his return to YouTube sometime this week, and when he does, the first video will probably address his actions. This may be different from the first two apologies he released; it could be a conversation about what he did, how he’ll change and what comes next.
I also said that his initial return to YouTube wasn’t important in the grand scheme of things. Logan works with public relations firms, agents and a team of professionals who are supposed to make him seem like a changed man.
In the weeks that follow, Logan will be more reserved as he gets back to building up the channel that won him more than 15 million subscribers. But as the months go on and other YouTubers become the topic of conversation, Logan will return to the jokester that he was before everything came to a sudden halt. His brother Jake will help him.
After posting a video on Dec. 31 that featured the body of a man who appeared to have recently committed suicide in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, Logan took three weeks off. He didn’t upload a video to YouTube; he didn’t tweet; as far as anyone knew, Logan was gone. The only indication that Logan was planning to make his return to YouTube were testimonies from his entire family on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
After three weeks away, Logan’s return to YouTube was a rebranding moment. He cut his hair, appearing appropriately somber in his video, as he met with mental health experts and suicide attempt survivors, pledging to donate $1 million to suicide prevention organizations. Logan defined his return as a new chapter in his life. He wasn’t going to be the goofy, diss track-feuding jokester that he was only one month prior.
While Logan’s initial return is admirable, and though his efforts to create a short documentary about suicide awareness and pledge a significant amount to mental health organizations should be applauded, this isn’t Logan Paul’s return. This is a pre-meditated, six-step plan to gaining back the trust of his audience and the general public.
The question is what happens six months from now?
The long game
This isn’t a new situation. Before YouTubers and influencers were apologizing for uploading insensitive videos and apologizing for using racist language on livestreams, public personas and celebrities were using social media platforms to issue their own apologies promising to be better. Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson and even Kanye West have all apologized for an unfortunate act, promising to do better. In many of those cases, however, similar events occur months or even years later. Clarkson is known for the apologize-and-move-on-before-insulting-again routine. Bieber was caught up in a series of mishaps and endless apologies for years.
When people are young, famous and making a small fortune with little oversight from adults, it’s much easier to apologize and try to be good for a month or two before reverting back to past ways. Logan’s been on his own for years in Los Angeles, surrounded by a Jackass-style crew that supports every decision he makes. Unless he distances himself from those past connections, he’ll never be able to become the person he wants to be.
Other YouTubers feel similarly. People like Casey Neistat and Jimmy Wong tweeted out their appreciation of Logan’s video, but noted their own skepticism over what happens next.
“Logan Paul has a long way to go and people are right to continue to question his motives but today’s video was a thoughtful first step,” Neistat wrote on Twitter. “Hopefully this is part of a true effort to move on from sensationalist content.”
“Hey Logan Paul first off thank you for your video on suicide awareness,” Wong said on Twitter. “Trust, we are grateful you used your platform to teach your audience about an important issue, but let’s take a step back here, and look behind the PR team that made this. So I’m putting you on the spot Logan Paul — if you are truly changing, then it should show in every video you make from here on out.
“It DOES NOT END with a well timed PR piece, where you wash your face and hands in slowmo, have a new haircut, and speak with a somber affectation.”
It’s not that Logan can’t change, but it’s going to be more difficult that just staying away from the lifestyle he lived before uploading that video. There’s a specific science behind this. Logan is dealing with an enormous amount of stress; he needs to become a person who makes better decisions, but also needs to retain a channel with more than 16 million dedicated subscribers who are coming to watch Logan’s brand of antics. He needs to figure out how to be himself while also trying to be a better, more mature version of that person.
It’s stressful, and it’s a position not many people envy. Dr. Steven Stosny, a psychiatrist who wrote about this exact topic for Psychology Today, noted that increased levels of stress can lead an adult to make temperamental, bad decisions, not unlike that of a toddler.
We’re all capable of making the same mistakes over and over, because, under stress, we tend to retreat to habits of emotion regulation formed in toddlerhood. Habits rule under stress and when the regulatory processes of the prefrontal cortex (the Adult brain) are overtaxed from physical or mental exhaustion.
Logan has a lot on his plate, and unfortunately, he’s working to build a career on the one website where burnout, frustration and pressure to outdo every last video isn’t just a side effect, but a determining factor in what gets uploaded.
YouTube is also a platform that rewards certain behavior through subscribers and view counts. Although Logan lost his Google Preferred status, which could reportedly cost him 50 percent of his ad revenue, and his YouTube Red projects, he was still rewarded in other ways. His subscriber base continued to grow past 16 million, and people are still watching his videos.
There’s reason right now for Logan to try and rebrand himself and his image, hoping for good press and pats-on-the-back from YouTubers, but because of the way the platform rewards certain behavior, it’s not going to be enough to sustain him. It’s an issue that’s talked about frequently among YouTube creators and one that is simply referred to as “the YouTube problem.”
The YouTube problem
If you’re not watching YouTube’s top commentators on a daily basis, it can be hard to keep up with a general discourse among creators. When Logan uploaded the original video, he was met with scorn and critical videos from the platform’s top creators. There was a feeling of unanimous scorn among the most influential creators for one of the first times.
As time went on, however, something changed. People like PewDiePie started examining the YouTube problem that comes with being one of the most watched and talked about creators on the platform. PewDiePie spoke about the pressure to continue being the best by being the most talked about — and outdoing every single video. He explained that when you’re in that ecosystem, creating videos every single day, trying to become the person that everyone is watching, you lose focus on reality. It’s easier to make mistakes, he said, because everything is done in the name of content.
“The problem with being a YouTuber or an online entertainer is that you constantly have to outdo yourself,” PewDiePie said. “I think a lot of people get swept up in that ... that they have to keep outdoing themselves, and I think it’s a good reflection of what happened with Logan Paul. I don’t think Logan is necessarily a bad person; I just think he really got caught up in that idea that he has to keep pushing himself to get those numbers.
“If you make videos every single day, it’s really tough to keep people interested, and keep them coming back.”
Logan is going to have to address this problem. Not now, maybe not even in the coming weeks. But months from now, Logan will be trying to figure out how to become the most talked about YouTuber again, but this time in a positive manner. It’s easy to fall back into past habits when they worked for you for so long.
Part of blooming into the person he wants to be is, ironically, going to be able to take time away from YouTube and not define himself as a YouTuber. He needs to get away from his past, from the world that he created for himself, and that’s going to define his make-or-break moment. How much does he really want to change, and how much does he really just want to get back to the way it was before?
The ball’s in his court. It’s not an easy task, but it’s one that he must prove he’s willing to commit to.