Sorry, not sorry: YouTube apology videos


Photo courtesy of James Charles YouTube channel

James Charles apology video

“So Sorry.” “Let’s talk.” “holding myself accountable.” “a long overdue apology.” These are all titles of videos that YouTubers have released apologizing for their controversial actions. Like any other public figures, YouTubers are prone to criticism and scandals at some point in their careers. However, some of their actions go far beyond the inevitable blip and are seriously harmful. It’s our responsibility to hold them accountable and not accept these lame excuses and videos as apologies anymore. 

One of the most famous YouTube apology videos is from Logan Paul in 2018. With almost 60 million views, the video addresses Paul’s posting of a suicide victim hanging in the Aokigahara Forest in Japan. He recorded the victim’s dead body and posted it on YouTube for his then 15 million subscribers. 

This heinous action should never have been filmed in the first place, but his apology is what is truly frustrating. In not even a two-minute video, Paul apologizes for his actions with tear-filled eyes and vows to do better. However, a month later, Paul went back to posting regular content and urged his subscribers to buy his merch since YouTube had restricted his AdSense, a main source of revenue for YouTubers. One would think these ignorant actions would have severe consequences, yet Paul’s platform now boasts nearly 23 million subscribers.

Most recently, James Charles, a 21-year-old YouTube star, was accused of child grooming and sending explicit photos to underage boys over social media. In his apology video, Charles says that he was “desperate,” and so fixated on being in a relationship that he didn’t take necessary precautions to ensure the people he was communicating with were over 18. This skewed rationale is no excuse for what he did, and many people are calling for the police to get involved. As of now, there appear to be no charges against Charles.

To make matters worse, last year, Charles was the host of the YouTube show Instant Influencer, a competition where contestants are taught to become the next big social media influencer. In one episode, Charles teaches the contestants how to film an apology video. The contestants had 15 minutes to film an apology for a minor scandal. This challenge implies that many of Charles’ apologies have been insincere and shows how YouTubers are more interested in preserving their image than making things right. 

David Dobrik recently joined the list of YouTube stars involved in major controversies after multiple women came out saying that they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Dobrik’s friends while he was filming vlogs for his channel. Although Dobrik was not the perpetrator in these situations, he was present and did not attempt to stop the incidents. 

Dobrik’s first apology, which was only two and a half minutes long, was released on his podcast channel with 1.7 million subscribers. After receiving backlash for the first video’s lack of effort, he released a second, longer apology on his main channel which has 18.5 million subscribers.

This apology was certainly more genuine than the first; however, the issue is that Dobrik had to make two videos before “getting it right.” No one should be putting themselves in a situation where they have to apologize, but the least a person can do is make a genuine, heartfelt apology (on their first try preferably). While Dobrik has lost followers and brand deals from this controversy, his career certainly is not over and it is likely that he will return to posting regular content sooner rather than later. 

YouTube stars are not being held accountable for their actions, but they must be in order for the platform to be a safe place for creators and viewers. When Youtubers inevitably make mistakes, they need to apologize in a genuine manner, because right now these videos are simply not cutting it.