The Melbourne TikToker behind the “wholesome” viral video slammed by the woman he filmed receiving flowers in a food court without her consent has said he won’t stop his claimed acts of kindness.
Harrison Pawluck (AKA @lifeofharrison), who has 3.2 million followers on TikTok, appeared on The Project on Sunday night to apologise to Maree — the woman in the viral video. But the backlash he received after she spoke out about feeling “dehumanised” isn’t going to stop him from creating his content.
“Maree, I apologise for what has happened and I would love to be able to owe you a coffee and be able to get you a bouquet of flowers that are more to your tastes,” Pawluck said.
“I know my true intentions and I know that if I can just inspire one per cent of the people that watch my content to go out there and do something good, I have done something that is good for the world.”
Though the intent may be true from Pawluck and many other creators like him, the benefit for the creator in terms of views and notoriety outweighs the small acts of giving a stranger some flowers or a bag of groceries.
Tech journalist James Hennessy explained to The Project how a lot of these styles of videos are being seen as performative rather than genuine and wholesome.
“It’s pretty clear that a lot of these creators are just chasing views,” he said.
“These videos do incredibly well. It’s certainly a dynamic that these people are not getting a whole lot out of, but the creator is.
“It’s a huge ethical minefield. The idea that we’re being surveilled all the time by people who are just trying to turn our lives into content is something that I think people innately reject.”
Hearing from Maree’s perspective after the fact is a rare instance when it comes to this type of viral content. It’s not often to hear from the stranger in the video after we’ve scrolled past it on our feeds.
But having a response from the person being gifted the flowers (or money, groceries or free meal — whatever the act of kindness is) allows us to think more critically about the content we’re watching and how we’d respond if we found out we were fodder for someone’s viral TikTok without okaying it.
It’s an issue rife with ethical and moral complications, but at the end of the day it’s probably best to ask if someone’s OK to be filmed. Or if you want to do something nice for someone, do it with the intention of making their day brighter. Maybe not so millions of people can praise you for it.