In 2017 we are increasingly seeing the popularity of television being taken over by the internet. YouTube has played a huge role in this development, with insights showing that 96% of 13-24 year olds watch over 11 hours of videos via social media sites per week.
Currently in the UK, two of YouTube’s biggest stars are brawling, and the negative impact that this is having on young fans is undeniable. Olajide Olatunji, known on the internet as KSI, is the 35th most subscribed YouTuber in the world, with more than 17 million subscribers. Fellow internet star Joe Weller also has a large following of more than 4 million subscribers. Both attended Upload Event on September 10th 2017 where fans bought tickets to meet their favourite YouTube stars. It was here, in front of hundreds of young people that the two engaged in a physical and verbal spat which involved body shaming and insults surrounding mental health. A boxing event has been scheduled for February 3rd 2018, where fans can pay to come and support either KSI or Weller in a fully-fledged fight.
Both men have clearly reached huge amounts of success. KSI has been able to launch his own music career, and his latest EP entitled Disstracktions hit number 1 on ITunes in the UK when it was released on September 29th. Similarly, Joe Weller has recently released his own song entitled Queen and a Double, and is currently promoting his own book – Joe Weller Explores: Haunted Hotel.
Many young viewers across the globe may wish that they could mirror these achievements,which places these men in a position where they should be acting as role models. By contrast, they chose to be seen shoving each other to the ground, held back by security, whilst young boys and girls jeered in the crowd.
Inspiration for their rivalry is thought to have come from the US. Ohio-born brothers, Jake and Logan Paul, have a combined YouTube following of more than 14 million people. In the month of June 2017, they engaged in an internet battle, where they released a series of ‘disstracks’ on each other, only to reunite again after the short-lived feud. Fans have conspired that this was merely a publicity stunt to gain views, which was highly successful. Just one of Logan Paul’s songs – The Fall of Jake Paul, has raked up over 100 million views since its release.
The popularity of these ‘disstracks’ has influenced British YouTubers to release them also. Over the past month KSI has released 5 songs, receiving more than 74 million views from these videos alone. Amongst them was a track entitled Two Birds One Stone, partially aimed at Joe Weller. In the song, he insults the 21-year-old, saying, “your music makes me wanna pop a Prozac.” The reference to Prozac – an anti-depressant – was a particularly hard-hitting ‘diss’, as Weller has admitted to suffering from depression. Throughout his YouTube career, Weller has uploaded videos on dealing with his condition and reached out to fans suffering from mental health disorders in order for them to share their story. Now, KSI’s reference to depression in this ‘disstrack’ has received backlash for seemingly poking fun at Weller’s mental health, but there are also a worrying amount of comments under the video supporting the song, despite it’s inappropriate content.
This was not the last time that KSI would use mental health as an insult. Upload Event released a video of the two facing off on stage, where KSI mockingly asked Weller, “Do you need drugs to stay sane?” The comment provoked an angry reaction from Joe Weller, and the YouTuber even uploaded a response video the next day, suggesting that KSI’s comments during the fight on September 10th – coinciding with World Suicide Prevention Day – were completely unacceptable. According to the Guardian, around a quarter of a million children and teenagers suffer from mental health issues in the UK. An influential public figure such as KSI making comments such as these about mental health issues is likely to both offend fans, and encourage further ostracization and even bullying of those who suffer from mental health issues.
KSI is not the only one deserving of blame in this situation however. Before the offensive comment about depression were ever made, Joe Weller made an ill-mannered remark of his own. As the two went back and forth in front of the audience, Weller was captured saying: ‘insult me just cos you’re a fat s***.’ Over the duration of the panel he continued to make crude references to KSI’s weight and appearance. This triggered a reaction from the 24-year-old, who posted on his Twitter the next day that ‘body shaming is not a joke’.
Indeed, fat-shaming is far from a joke for many— at the beginning of the year, 52% of surveyed teens told the Huffington Post that they regularly worry about how they look. The pressure on today’s youth in terms of appearance is immense as the media presents unrealistic body expectations for them to obtain. As weight is clearly a sensitive issue amongst young fans, and since self-perception is closely related to mental health, it is rather shocking that Joe Weller would chose to make such a comment.
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This is not the only controversy surrounding the two. Joe Weller has come under fire for ‘black-facing’ in videos such as How to be KSI – ironically, Weller was a big fan of him before he started his YouTube career .The rumours and gossip surrounding KSI himself seem to be unending. He faced sexual harassment claims when he was banned from Eurogamer in 2012. Other accusations include the alleged hiring of prostitutes, and taking cocaine when partying in Ibiza. Although there is limited proof to validate these claims, it is clear to see that he is a contentious figure, and the influence that he and Joe Weller obtain should be concerning to parents of children who watch their videos. Perhaps the most troubling comment on this feud comes from Weller, who in his reaction video told his viewers: ‘I do want to emphasise the message of standing up for what you believe in.
That message is really going to represent what I’m about in this whole experience’. If teaching young children that violence and name-calling is their way of standing up for their beliefs, it is extremely unsettling to think of young people across the world referring to either YouTuber as their ‘hero’. It is clear that both stars are as bad as each other, taking their influence for granted and setting a bad example to their viewers. They are both ignorant of the various issues that affect most of their own fans.
Charissa is an A level student and aspiring journalist who enjoys writing about the things that matter.