Social experiments are the worst example of the millennial stereotype. There is no more hollow gesture when it comes to improving the world than a social experiment video posted online. Even hashtags at least come with a coherent theme and bring some level or awareness to a larger concern (#CharlieGard, btw). But even though people may think they are showing there is “still beauty in the world” or whatever virtue signaling crap they think matters, they’re really making it about themselves by putting it on the internet.
I recently saw one of these abhorrent videos on Twitter. A guy slipped some money into a homeless man’s hand while he was sleeping. A nice enough gesture. The homeless man used it to go buy a pillow and blanket. He comes back to find the guy who made the video pretending to be worried that he can’t afford his daughter’s medication. The homeless guy returns his pillow and blanket, gets the cash back, and offers it to the videographer, saying the daughter needs it more than he does. The videographer rewards homeless guy’s generosity by paying him $500 cash. The homeless man is overwhelmed, since that money will likely feed him relatively well for a month or two. So let’s break this down. You give the guy money. He goes to buy himself a blanket and pillow. You pretend your daughter is DYING and manipulate this man into thinking he should help you. Then you hit him with a “psyche, I was just messing with you, since you were going to give me your money for my fake sick daughter here’s $500.” All put on video and posted on the Internet for millions to see. Disgusting.
This is like going on your Facebook page and telling everybody how much you donated to charity that year, or worse, an individual. “I loaned my brother-in-law $5,000 so he could afford his mortgage while looking for a new job, we should all be so generous!” A great person donates their time to charities when they can. A good person recommends highly effective charities to interested parties. An honest person won’t give to charity if it’s not something they agree with or care about. But the worst kind of person tries to make helping other people, or “the world,” about themselves.
It’s great to give a homeless guy $500 bucks because he’s a good person if you want to, but does it have to be put on camera? Does his face have to be put out there, publicizing his tears of joy? Let the man keep some dignity. If you’re trying to make the world a better place, there are far more effective things to do than a thinly veiled, partially staged Internet video that ultimately made little difference in the world. No one’s going to watch that video and leave YouTube or social media with a new sense of optimism for the human race. Especially as long as Donald Trump has a Twitter account.
And this video isn’t the only one problem. There are social experiment videos out there that cover sexism and racism and any other -ism that your average American, even your average civilized human, hates to see. There’s the old “random people stand up to racist in public,” “would you help a girl getting abused by her boyfriend in public,” and of course the “hot girl with sign versus homeless girl with sign.” Imagine going on Facebook and seeing posts of anecdotes about everyone’s morally good deeds for the day, like standing up for someone who gets hit with a racial slur or calling some guy a misogynist for being rude to women. They’d get muted from your timeline, right?
Most “man or woman on the street” videos or similar staged situations are purely for entertainment. When Kat Timpf goes to spring break and asks drunk college bros what they think of Trump, nothing is expected but a laugh and a head shake. When Ashton Kutcher did Punk’d (which frankly wasn’t that good anyways), the idea was to get entertainment value by messing with rich celebrities. You’re using people for entertainment, you let them laugh it off as the joke it is, and you move on with your life. When you manipulate people for the sake of making some kind of point to make yourself look morally superior, that’s just sad. Instead of making changing the world all about you, maybe just be a decent person. You’d be surprised how many lives you can change without waving a damn camera everywhere..
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