Homeless social experiments. Experiments or exploitation?


Having seen many clips being shared of people filming themselves doing good deeds or giving food and money to the homeless, I cant help but wonder, if despite good intentions some of these social experiments are actually missing the point? 

Today in the metro I saw a link of a viral video showing a popular youtuber conducting a social experiment testing the honesty of the homeless. The experiment involves the youtuber dropping money on the floor and then going up to unsuspecting homeless people and asking if they dropped their money.

The “experiment” is intended to highlight the fact that sometimes those who have nothing can act with more honesty and integrity than those who do have money in their pockets and a roof over their heads.

Whilst I’m sure done with the best intentions, I can’t help but feel that some of these “social experiments” are somewhat exploitative and trivialise a rather complex and sensitive issue.

I don’t enjoy seeing homeless people secretly filmed or having a fake scenario set up around them to see how they react. They are not props or puppets for people’s entertainment. Filming someone without their knowledge and then testing them to see if you deem them worthy or deserving of money is cruel and unfair.

Just because someone is on the street doesn’t make them dishonest. When you are at the point you are sleeping on the streets, with no money, no home and no food it’s about survival and people can act out of desperation.

These are real people, who for whatever reason have fallen on hard times. Not test subjects.

The majority of homeless people I’ve met are extremely proud and do not want to be pitied or treated as a charity case. I’ve met many people who’s families aren’t even aware they are on the streets because they don’t want to worry them or become a burden. So I am slightly concerned when I see videos of homeless people being posted and shared around the Internet when it’s possible that it may be without their consent.

Imagine finding out through the internet that someone you know is homeless and on the streets begging for food and money. I wonder how many people uploading these videos have taken the time to find out if this persons family or friends are aware of their situation.

Even if this person has given their consent are they in the right mental capacity to make this decision. Can you imagine being at rock bottom and having a camera shoved in your face.

I’ve also seen videos of people pretending to be homeless and then shaming everyone who has walked past. Just as you shouldn’t judge the person sleeping on the sidewalk you should not judge the person who walks past.

Everyone has their own struggles, you know nothing about and if you are in a place where you are having trouble helping yourself, you aren’t always in the best position to be able to help somebody else.

I don’t think that people should be guilt tripped into helping someone who is in need, people should help because they want to not because they feel they have to.

Regardless of whether or not these videos are created with the right intentions you cant deny the fact they are getting people engaged and interested in social issues that they may have otherwise overlooked and ignored.

I support any video that encourages people to be kind and considerate of those around them without needing a reason.

Hopefully these videos will encourage people to think twice before they just walk by someone who is on the streets and remind people that sometimes the most important gift you can give someone is your time.

I love videos that are informative, raise awareness and change and challenge the publics perceptions towards social issues.

I love seeing random and genuine acts of kindness. I like to see people performing selfless acts.

What I don’t like, and something that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable, is seeing people trying to gain popularity and subscribers online by using homeless people as some kind of popularity tool.

If you want to help someone then help them because you want to, not because you want people to think good of you. No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted, and filming it does not validate it.


One thought on “Homeless social experiments. Experiments or exploitation?

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Monique. I resonate with what you’ve shared as well — that random acts of kindness and compassionate connection (or regular ones) are beautiful, but having to record everything to use for online p.r. and doing the sorts of experiments you’ve highlighted here, is disturbing. Seems more rooted in ego-gratification than empathy. Thanks for your post. Blessings, Jamie

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