The Eagle Eye

Bad Influence(r)s

The Internet’s leading broadcasting website has become a platform for a whole different kind of self-advertisement.

Brittany Kaplan, Staff Writer

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YouTube first joined the World Wide Web in 2005, quickly taking over the Internet as a video-sharing hub accessible to virtually anyone with a computer and a sense of boredom. While many of  90’s babies recall a time when YouTube’s Trending page lit up our screens with cat videos and candid kid moments, a newer crowd, “Generation C,” (“C” for connected) has forced a change in content.

Gen C is the first in human history to be born into a truly digital world. Because YouTube wasn’t around until the mid-2000’s, Gen C kids are somewhere around 8-13 years old. Nowadays, Gen C kids make up most of YouTube’s audience, forcing YouTubers to revolve video content around what will be attractive to preadolescents, so they can keep views high.

To sum it all up, the Internet’s leading broadcasting website is run, essentially, by 9-year olds. The aforementioned YouTubers consist mainly of early to mid-twenty-year olds like Logan Paul and Sam Pepper. What happens when twenty-somethings cater to an audience made up of elementary to middle schoolers? Controversy. A lot of controversies.

Take Logan Paul, for example. On an overly-documented trip to Japan’s “Suicide Forest” in Aokigahara, Paul and his fellow YouTuber pals came across an apparent suicide victim hanging from a tree. Instead of putting down the camera like any sensible human being would, Paul made the intelligent decision to zoom in on the corpse’s poorly-blurred face. After an unsurprising outpouring of backlash, Paul emerged with a shabby apology classily typed out in the Notes application on his phone. The apology, addressed directly to, “The Internet,” (not sure what that means) felt like a narcissist’s vain attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of his viewers, purely for the sake of his channel.

This is where the age gap between video creators and their viewers gets especially disturbing. Up until the video with the dead body, the vlogs (or video blogs) mainly consisted of Paul, along with his equally immature gang of narcissistic cohorts, running around Japan, being racist toward locals who clearly were not having it, vandalizing shops, acting out Asian stereotypes and behaving like 9-year olds. Makes sense, right? He’s doing and saying things that his preadolescent viewers (and preadolescents alone) would find hilarious.

But here’s the thing: Logan Paul is an adult who wields influence over millions of viewers decades younger than himself. Paul, in carelessly filming what anyone with any sort of common sense would not be exposed those millions of young viewers to a grossly insensitive depiction of suicide. Generation C is growing up watching people like Paul behaving all the wrong ways in very serious situations.

Another example of a horrible role model on YouTube is Sam Pepper. His channel began innocently enough with harmless prank videos in which he messed with friends or family members. In 2014, however, he published a “social experiment” video in which he came up behind several female strangers, grabbed their backside and pretended like it wasn’t him. Pepper faced sexual harassment accusations by women featured in the video which he later claimed was “scripted.” Shortly after falling from YouTube’s good graces, Pepper again found himself facing controversy when multiple women, many of them former fans of his, stepped forward to accuse the Brit of sexual assault and/or rape.

As if this wasn’t enough to shut down his channel once and for all, Pepper released a 2015 video titled “Killing Best Friend Prank,” in which he kidnaps two of his friends, blindfolds and binds them, takes them to an unknown location and pretends to shoot one of them in the head (the one who is “shot” is in on it, the other friend is not). The unsuspecting friend immediately beings to sob over the apparent murder of his best friend, begging for mercy, when Pepper finally reveals the whole thing to be one big “prank.” What a fun, harmless joke that definitely won’t require years of therapy!

It’s scary to think that so many young kids spend their afterschool hours watching people like Logan Paul and Sam Pepper as role models. The influence big YouTubers have over today’s children is almost predatory. It’s simple really, especially when you remember that the audiences’ frontal lobes are still developing. Lure the kid onto your channel, have him or her buy overpriced merchandise, get on their maturity level by making adolescent jokes or comments, encourage them to tag their friends and repeat. Teaching future generations that racism, insensitivity, and sexual assault are unpunishable or excusable offenses is a crime in itself.

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