Logan Paul’s younger viewers are trying to cope with the whirlwind of negativity surrounding their favorite YouTuber the only way they know how — by vlogging about it.
Yesterday, just about every media critic and culture reporter tried to explain what happened to one of YouTube’s most popular creators beyond the straight news story; Paul, who boasts more than 15 million subscribers, many of whom are young kids, was criticized for an insensitive upload of a video featuring the body of a man who recently committed suicide. The video and events surrounding it sparked conversation about a great deal of topics. How did the video remain on the site for so long without being taken down? Why was it in the trending section? How could Paul think that would ever be okay to upload to YouTube?
For critics and reporters, it was a series of difficult questions with no clear answer. For the majority of Paul’s young fanbase, however, it was even more confusing as they watched their favorite YouTuber get torn apart by other YouTubers, the media and even their friends. At the age of eight, nine or 10, it’s difficult to understand what’s going on, why everyone is hating on their favorite YouTuber, but they tried to comprehend the severity of the situation the only way they knew how.
Between yesterday and today, dozens of videos have appeared on YouTube featuring kids with their own YouTube channels having earnest conversations about how they’re feeling.
[Editor’s note: Polygon has decided not to link out to individual vlogs as a means to protect the kids publishing the vlogs. Even though YouTube is a public forum, these kids are not in the public eye. With the amount of negative attention surrounding Logan Paul, we don’t want to send any harassment or negative attention their way, while they’re already trying to come to terms with what’s happening.]
One young YouTuber, who goes by JT, uploaded a video on Jan. 2 called “What the hell just happened ... Logan Paul ... Logang ... Suicide ... YouTube.”
In the video, he begs for the Logang to continue supporting his idol as he visibly struggles on camera to express how he’s feeling. JT manages to write a quick description underneath the video, again pleading with YouTube, as he defends his hero.
YouTube, don't take him off the website please! Don't f*****g do it. YouTube is the only way I can interact with Logan Paul. He is my hero, who I lookup to. I can't get Instagram, Snap chat. I've only got twitter and he has so many fans that I cannot actually interact in any way with him. Logan Paul is my everything. He deleted the video so he knows not to do it again. We can just get back to normal vlogs as usual.
“It’s over,” JT can be heard saying in the video. “Everything ... everything is over. I’m pretty sure the Logang is not going to be a thing. As a fan of Logan Paul, everything is done to hell for me right now.”
The most jarring aspect of the video is watching JT try to understand what’s happening. He’s trying to understand how the sunny, boyish version of Logan Paul that he’s used to watching everyday could be in this mess — and he’s not the only person who feels that way. JT seems to be experiencing the same kind of devastation over the realization that Logan Paul isn’t as he seems the same way adults do with their own friends and romantic partners?
There’s a term for this kind of interaction between a viewer, especially children, and a celebrity: parasocial relationship. The viewer thinks they have a real relationship with the person they watch on a daily basis, even though it’s completely one-sided. Although the term was originally used to talk about celebrities, the relationship between vloggers and their audience is even more intimate. It’s daily, a look inside what the viewer believes to be that vlogger’s actual life, and because of that, it’s hard to acknowledge that these people are human beings capable of fault.
Author K. Thor Jensen published a Medium post on this exact topic, and noted:
Perfection is a big issue in parasocial relationships. It’s easy to forget that even though a person seems “real” online, they’re performing for a camera and showing you a curated version of their true self. Of course viewers find it easier to connect with a polished person, rather than a real human being with their own needs and flaws.
In order to keep that perfect view of Paul alive, his fans, who refer to themselves as the Logang, have come up with excuses for Paul’s behavior. Captain Jman, another young vlogger and Paul fan, uploaded his own vlog today trying to discuss what happened. Like JT, he seems like he’s trying to work it out for himself, offering excuses for Paul’s behavior while doing so.
“They shouldn’t cut him out of YouTube,” Captain Jman says. “He warned everyone at the beginning of the video ... and if he warned all of y’all, then why did you continue to watch it?”
It’s easier for kids to try and defend Paul, lashing out against the “haters” who are attacking him, like critics and other YouTubers, because it’s harder for kids to communicate a defense of the act instead of the person. These videos largely stray away from the actual controversy and focus on their own feelings about Paul and the situation.
This is a common emotional response for kids. Psychologist Dr. Leon Seltzer wrote in 2016 that:
It’s fairly obvious that kids haven’t yet developed adequate emotional resources to cope effectively with whatever psychological pain they may be feeling. So, given their limited capacity not only to comprehend their emotions, but also to communicate them, they’re pretty much compelled to act them out. And that’s why, whether they begin to whimper, wail, shout or scream, the only way they know how to express their feelings is through visually putting them on display.
For a generation of aspiring YouTubers, vlogging is that way of reaching out and trying to express how they’re feeling. Another young vlogger, Kid Chatterbox, uploaded a response video on Jan. 2, calling out the “haters” for the way they’re reacting to Paul’s original video and subsequent apologies.
“I honestly think that it was sincere,” Kid Chatterbox says after watching Paul’s apology video. “And to all of the haters who are saying it wasn’t, watch that video, please. If you can’t see the hurt in his eyes, you aren’t looking properly. I think he’s hurt. And to be honest, I think that video did scar him.”
Kid Chatterbox is visibly upset by the end of the video, and focuses on the more “positive” aspects of Paul’s original video, which referred to suicide prevention lines for anyone who felt like they needed help. Kid Chatterbox’s own video focuses on suicide prevention, and she speaks to how important it is that Paul brought attention to the issue; a common theme among his most vocal supporters.
More vlogs from Paul’s younger followers are being uploaded, many of which have zero subscribers and no views. Unlike Paul, these channels aren’t a form of monetization and business, but a way for them to emulate their heroes and try to be a part of the world they hold so close to them.
When your whole life is watching vloggers’ content, it makes sense to respond to a stressful situation using the only tool you really know.