A Melbourne woman has slammed a TikTok influencer for using her for “wholesome” content in a viral video she didn’t consent to be in.
By now you’ve probably seen Harrison Pawluk‘s video, which has over 58 million views.
In the video he approaches an older woman sitting alone in a Melbourne food court and asks her to hold a bouquet of flowers for him for a second.
While she admires the flowers, he rummages through his bag. Then he tells her to have a nice day and walks away — leaving her with the flowers, which appears to make her tear up.
The video is captioned “I hope this made her day better” with the hashtag #wholesome.
Comments flooding the video lauding the sweet act, praising Harrison and pitying the apparently lonely old woman.
“Wow that was so beautiful I swear I would cry,” one person wrote.
“I watch this so many times, her reaction is so precious,” said another.
“She was definitely going through something and those flowers made it a little bit better.”
Except, she wasn’t.
The woman in the video, who goes by Maree, told the ABC that she didn’t want the flowers and Harrison actually turned her into a viral sob story without her consent.
“He interrupted my quiet time, filmed and uploaded a video without my consent, turning it into something it wasn’t, and I feel like he is making quite a lot of money through it,” she said.
Maree said when Harrison walked away without the flowers, she realised she was being filmed.
When she asked if this was the case, the group filming her said “no”.
She then tried to return the flowers to Harrison.
“I didn’t want to carry them home on the tram, to really be quite frank,” she said.
Later that day, Maree was shown the viral video by a friend. Tabloids began reporting on it soon after and commending Harrison for his “kindness”.
“At first it was just a bit of a joke to me, but then I felt dehumanised after reading the article,” she said.
“The article said: ‘old woman, elderly woman, heartbreaking tale’.
“And they got this picture of me supposedly crying, but it was just a horrible expression.
“I feel like clickbait.”
Maree said seeing herself turned into a pitiful, lonely old woman was frustrating.
“It’s the patronising assumption that women, especially older women, will be thrilled by some random stranger giving them flowers,” she said.
Harrison has posted similar videos of other unsuspecting people on his social media.
A recent video sees him place a shopping bag next to people who appear to be homeless while he ties his shoe laces. He then tells them the groceries (or whatever is in that bag) are actually for them.
Sorry, but it’s giving poverty porn. If you really want to help someone who is homeless, give them cash??? And if a woman has made it clear she doesn’t want your flowers, don’t make a video implying they made her day.
Harrison’s team provided a statement to the ABC clarifying that because the videos are filmed in public, they do not require consent. Side note: this is not entirely true, since rules vary by state and shopping centres could be considered private property.
“He offers flowers and pays for complete strangers’ groceries, and while cynics may claim it’s for views, Harrison simply has a personal commitment to helping people feel more connected and trusting,” the statement said, per ABC.
“His videos are filmed in public places and so technically do not require consent.
“Having said that, while he has only so far encountered gratitude, if someone is upset, then they should feel free to personally email him.
“He would not want something designed to spread love and compassion to cause anyone concern.”
Look, if an influencer with 3.2 million TikTok followers really wanted to uplift someone, he could give them more than a half-empty Coles bag.