Deep Dive #4: "Growing Up" With Logan Paul
Welcome to the third and final part of my series on "Growing Up." I strongly recommend reading Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this. The first two posts can be found below:
Recapping Parts 1 and 2: The first blog post deals with the societal incentives to grow up, and how these can (and in most cases) be dangerous to you as a person, and the second addresses how following society's maturity plan leaves you as an impotent and passive adult.
We now understand the consequences of blindly going along with the mantra of having to "grow up." You get teenagers like Greta Thunberg having to lecture adults on doing their chief jobs, which is preserving the world that children like them will inherit.
This is a fate that we should avoid. What does an alternate future look like where we grow up on our terms?
(The rest of this argument is going to sound crazy, but please, focus on the argument itself and not the examples or the devices I use to further said viewpoint.)
Our case study to explore this alternate reality is going to be no other than Logan Paul.
Yes, this guy:
The guy who's amassed a massive social media following: over 19 million subscribers on Youtube, 15 million likes on Facebook, 10M+ followers on Vine (R.I.P.), 16 million on Instagram...the guy is a social media machine. At one point, he was starring in an actual blockbuster movie, the remake of the 1983 teen classic Valley Girl!
And yes, before someone calls me out, this is the same guy who became the center of the controversy in Japan's suicide forest back in 2018.
You might be asking - why would I use Logan Paul as the main thrust of my argument?
It's simple - this 24-year-old "choch" got to "grow up" on his terms, which is something I've been arguing throughout the first two blog posts on this topic. It made him a millionaire several times over, and also at one point, one of the most hated human beings of the decade.
Paul's rise and fall serve as the perfect representation of the pros and cons of "growing up" on your terms.
He is a kid from Westlake, Ohio who started out making YouTube videos when he was ten-years-old with his younger brother Jake Paul. Now, he lives in a $6.6 million mansion in Encino, California. (His younger brother Jake, also a YouTube multi-millionaire, lives in a $6.9 million giant mansion as well in Calabasas, California).
The fact that he was able to follow his passions of filmmaking and comedy and turn it into an actual career is incredible, and certainly worthy of praise. Not many can say they carved out their path to success. Not many people can say they "grew up" on their terms.
But he (and his brother) can.
Most of us follow the well-worn path of going and doing well in school, then matriculating to college, and getting a good job once you graduate. Then you get married, have kids, work to pay off your various debts (house, car, kids student loans, random timeshare you picked up while on vacation because your spouse thought it was a good idea), retire, take care of the grandchildren, and die.
That's if things go according to plan too. But Mr. Paul here bucked that trend and did this own thing. It should be noted that Mr. Paul himself was on this well-worn path also!
From the article (emphasis added):
All this has Paul wondering if he wants to continue at Ohio University, where he's a freshman engineering major with a full academic scholarship, or see just how far the Vine springboard will launch him.
"Vine put me on the radar," he said. "It's definitely the coolest thing that's happened in my life. The doors it is opening up for me, it's amazing."
Of course, there's still the matter of college, his scholarship and the major he chose because it seemed like a safe path to a stable, steady career. If the entertainment world is going to outweigh that, it will have to make financial sense, said Greg.
So for now, Logan is a college student first, an entertainment commodity second.
For all of his dumb, attention-seeking antics, Paul is a smart man. He reminds me of the scholar-athletes back in my school. They were incredibly bright in the classroom and gifted on the field. Most of them have gone one to do great in their lives, and I'm sure Paul would have followed suit as well.
It's essential that I admit that I was a massive fan of Paul back in the day, especially when he was vlogging consistently on Youtube (we're talking early 2015-16ish if I remember correctly). My favorite period of his vlogging was when he was working on his movie Valley Girl.
Paul took me into a whole other world that I knew to exist (being an actor), but to see it from a first-person view via his camera took things to a whole new level. I was seeing someone who is pursuing their passion and enjoying it in real-time.
It was wonderful. To me, this was the "Golden Era" of LoganPaulVlogs. The level of entertainment and immersion was incredibly appealing.
Which gets me to my main point - beyond the flashy lifestyle that Paul showed off in his vlogs, you got to see him "growing up" on this own terms in real-time.
You got to see how Paul got to wield his autonomy and independence with incredible effect to shape his life how he saw fit. I think that's why he resonated so much with his audience because the majority of them were kids in middle and high school.
These kids were seeing someone somewhat older (but still young by any metric) living life on his terms and getting paid to do it. What sweeter deal could there be as a kid who had to face the alternative ordinary prospects of "growing up?"
Of course, the fact that he had so much money coming his way in the form of ad-revenue from Youtube, his merch line, and countless brand and sponsorship deals enabled much of his content. But disregarding that, you could see someone who had the encouragement from his family and society to become who he wanted to be.
Most of us don't have that luxury or privilege. Instead, we are only praised on the basis of how far we advance in society because that is a proxy of how utility to others. We aren't celebrated because of our uniqueness as human beings, but our ability to conform to do and say the right things.
Yet, for all of Logan Paul's successes, there are definite risks and dangers to having the degree of autonomy that he was able to obtain from his social media wealth.
The Suicide Forest incident that he caused was an unforced error on his part. It was more than just a lack of judgment, but a grave violation of someone's life that had come to an unfortunate end. It goes without saying that what Paul did in the for the sake of "content" was not only wrong but one of the cruelest things I've witnessed on the internet.
That incident made me question who I was supporting. As someone who came incredibly close to buying Paul's merch (I would have gotten the "Always Plug" hoodie), I didn't go through with the purchase. I stopped watching his vlogs after that for quite some time. (Full disclosure: I've watched a few of his videos here and there since the incident, but not with the same enthusiasm as before.)
But the kids didn't.
Logan gained more than 1 million subscribers in his three-week break from YouTube after the backlash. This fact leads to my second point, which is that there are clear dangers of being autonomous at a young age without proper guidance.
The fact that most kids continued to support Logan Paul fervently was a factor of their age - most of them couldn't seriously grasp the weight of his transgression due to their lack of maturity. They were earnestly defending their hero who they felt was unfairly maligned in the press.
Let's be clear here: we can expect kids to know that it is not ok to film a dead body in the manner that Paul did, but we can't expect them to correctly judge the person they still look up to with the nuance the situation deserves.
Our society doesn't team them that. It doesn't teach children how to be autonomous, critical thinking human beings, so how can they recognize the need for self-regulation of not only own their actions but of others' actions as well, especially at a young, impressionable age?
I don't want to imply that every kid needs to start vlogging and gain millions of dollars in the process to learn to develop their autonomy and be a critical thinker. I think a healthy society would aim to carefully teach their young how to be independent and understand the limits of their autonomy to allow for harmonious living among others.
But we don't.
Paul, having grown up in the society that I now critique, is just as affected by the absence of this ideal rearing as the kids who follow him. This absence enabled a grave transgression of another human being in the Suicide Forest to occur.
I'm not here to absolve Paul of his mistakes and offenses. What he did was wrong. But it is important to highlight both his rise and fall because it shows both the pros and cons of "growing up" on your terms, especially in the context of a society that is obsessed with fame, materialism, money, power, clout, and all the over deadly sins I forgot to type out here.
Which leads me to my final point - "growing up" on your own terms is only completely beneficial if you're surrounded by the right influences in your immediate vicinity, and more importantly, the societal aims are oriented towards developing you in a way that's good for yourself and others around you.
It's clear that in Paul's situation, that wasn't the case. He has gone on the record as saying he wasn't surrounded by the right people to tell him "no." To be clear concerning what has been argued in this piece, he wasn't surrounded by people who should have limited his autonomy and challenged him to think about the moral hazard he was willing to risk in posting the infamous video.
It's a shame. That video he posted marked the end of the Logan Paul I came to enjoy. His content, while still incredibly popular, isn't the same. Why?
Because that incident forced him to "grow up."
So what's the moral of the story here, ladies and gentlemen, kids and "adults?"If you can absolutely avoid "growing up" by following the societal script, do so. Yet, if you're going to "grow up" on your own terms, then it would be wise to have people you know and trust to help guide you into the person you want to be.
(I'm following the latter plan!)
That's all I have for now. I may do a brief follow-up piece at some point if there's enough interest. (There's no Part 4, it will be a standalone article focused on the consequences of Paul's actions and how his career trajectory has changed.)
Alright, time for bed! This has been an enjoyable one to write and wrap up the "Growing Up" series.