Firstly, let me tell you that I never thought I’d be writing a post about Shane Dawson. Until about six months ago he’d never featured on my radar although I knew little tidbits about him from watching other Youtubers back in the day.
Anyway, unless you’ve been living under a rock or living an actual life outside of the internet you’ll know that Shane is currently making a documentary about Jake Paul, an internet sensation known for making outlandish Youtube videos. We’re at the halfway point of the documentary videos so I feel that now is a good time to let out some of the feelings I’ve had whilst watching.
The documentary is a good watch. Shane knows how to keep people invested, he knows what he’s doing with the spooky music, the editing and the general hype around the videos. But what I’m not cool with is what I deem to be a total disregard for his responsibility as an “influencer.”
In some ways, what I’m writing here is totally futile, because I do believe that no one really has a responsibility for anyone and people can act however they want to. And by no means do I think that Shane is the only person lacking responsibility in the celebrity (can I call him that?) realm. But in this instance I’m particularly riled up. Shane has 17 million subscribers on Youtube, 6.9 million on Twitter and his first Jake Paul video has had an unbelievable 18 million views.
That’s 18 million people who saw Shane and Kati Morton (a qualified therapist) call Antisocial Personality Disorder “creepy” and “icky.” That’s 18 million people who are now at risk of contributing to stigma of an illness that is already so highly stigmatised. That’s 18 million people who could start self-diagnosing or diagnosing their family and friends as sociopaths. If you would like to read something real about ASPD then check out this story of someone with lived experience of ASPD.
I’ve noticed that since the first video went up, Shane has added a disclaimer to the start of his videos telling viewers not to diagnose others and he has also talked about the way he and Kati approached mental illness. I’m just not sure how sincere it is coming from someone whose livelihood comes from racking up those views.
For me, as a mental health professional, it’s important to use your influence responsibly but if I were an entertainer I don’t know if I’d feel the same. Although in theory I’m against the way the disorder is being portrayed, in practice, Shane is doing his job, hyping up the audience, and dramatising for the sake of the content. I’m truly torn between what is definitely a well curated piece of work and something that just doesn’t sit quite right with me as a professional.
Do you think influencers have a responsibility to be truthful and careful with what they put out into the world? Let me know!