Melbourne woman ‘dehumanised’ by viral TikTok filmed without her consent

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The Guardian

A Melbourne woman says she feels “dehumanised” after being filmed without consent for a “random act of kindness” TikTok that went viral.

The video shows TikTok creator Harrison Pawluk approaching the woman, Maree, in a public shopping centre. He asked her to hold a bouquet of flowers while he put on a jacket.

Before Maree could return the bouquet, Pawluk wished her a good day and walked away. Maree’s shocked reaction was caught on camera.

The video now has more than 59m views and 11m likes.

Posted on the @LifeOfHarrison TikTok account several weeks ago with the caption, “I hope this made her day better,” it attracted largely supportive comments.

“Wow that was so beautiful I swear I would cry,” one user said.

Another wrote: “My heart! That made her feel so good and it looks like she might have needed it.”

However, Maree was cynical of Pawluk’s intentions after seeing the video had been posted.

Maree, who did not disclose her surname, told ABC Radio Melbourne, “these artificial things are not random acts of kindness”.

“He interrupted my quiet time, filmed and uploaded a video without my consent, turning it into something it wasn’t … I feel he is making quite a lot of money through it.”

“It’s the patronising assumption that … older women will be thrilled by some random stranger giving them flowers.”

She said she had ask whether she was being filmed, and was told “no”. She also said she offered the flowers back to Pawluk.

“I didn’t want to carry them home on the tram, to really be quite frank,” Maree said.

“But I wasn’t given that opportunity.”

A friend contacted Maree that evening, sharing the uploaded video. At the time, Maree “didn’t think much of it”.

But after seeing the TikTok video featured in media reports describing her as an “elderly woman” with a “heartbreaking tale,” she said she “felt dehumanised”.

“I feel like clickbait,” she said.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for Pawluk said the video was “designed to spread love and compassion”.

The statement noted on Pawluk’s recent trip to Los Angeles he witnessed “the extent of … poverty and homelessness in a city where that shouldn’t be the case,” and it had inspired him to create content concentrated on “random acts of kindness”.

“He offers flowers and pays for complete strangers’ groceries,” the statement said.

“So far Harrison has only encountered gratitude for what he has done, however it is clear in this case someone is upset. He wholeheartedly apologises to Maree if she was offended by what he did and urges her to contact him privately so he can personally apologise. If she requests him to take down the video he will do that.”

July 14, 2022 at 01:19PM Rafqa Touma

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