A popular TikToker is being criticized for filming himself performing “random acts of kindness” — which one woman said left her feeling “dehumanized.”
Harrison Pawluk, 22, is known online for sharing videos of himself giving out free flowers or hugs and surprising people by paying for their groceries.
In his videos, which receive millions of views, he claims he’s simply trying to “spread kindness,” but viewers and some recipients of his “random acts” aren’t into his shtick.
In a recent video, Pawluk tells a woman she dropped money on the floor before he quickly pays for her groceries while her back is turned — and then simply he walks away.
The woman then looks around in confusion and points in the direction where Pawluk. Some people online claimed that the woman looked and mouthed “Put that back, please” before walking away with her groceries. However, a spokesperson for Pawluk, Taylor Reilly, told news.com.au that the woman was not pointing or speaking to Pawluk, but was instead addressing her two children, who were off camera.
While many viewers praised his effort as “so kind” and called him a “good man,” some naysayers piled on about the self-promotion involved in the so-called random act. One person commented that it “would be even nicer if it wasn’t filmed,” while another suggested: “bro give the money to poor people. donate it. that would be valuable.”
No matter the woman’s reaction, it wouldn’t be the first time that a recipient of Pawluk’s “random act of kindness” didn’t feel the love and was instead upset by his actions.
Earlier this week, an Australian woman told ABC Radio Melbourne that she felt “dehumanized” after being recorded and seeing the video uploaded online, apparently without her permission, as “clickbait.”
Maree, who did not want to share her last name, was the focus of one of Pawluk’s popular TikTok videos — captioned “I hope this made her day better ❤️” — in which she is first seen sitting at a table alone and sipping a beverage at a shopping mall. Pawluk then approaches and asks her to hold a flower bouquet for him before he puts his backpack down and puts on a jacket.
But then he picks up his bag, tells her to “have a lovely day” — and just walks off, leaving Maree with the flowers in hand. She looks at the flowers confused and appears emotional before putting them down and continuing with her drink.
The TikTok video has since gone viral amassing 60.6 million views and thousands of comments applauding Pawluk for his kindness and generosity.
However, Maree was not as in awe of the TikTok star.
“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. “It’s the patronizing assumption that women, especially older women, will be thrilled by some random stranger giving them flowers.”
After receiving the flowers, she then began looking around when she realized she was being filmed by a group of people standing nearby. She claims she asked whether they were recording her and if they wanted the flowers but they replied no to both questions.
“I didn’t want to carry them home on the tram, to really be quite frank,” Maree said.
She didn’t think much about the interaction until her and her partner’s phones began blowing up with people commenting on the video and sending an article that had been written about it.
“At first it was just a bit of a joke to me, but then I felt dehumanized 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,” she said. “These artificial things are not random acts of kindness.”
Many people online are also skeptical of Pawluk’s TikTok videos, questioning the authenticity of his maneuvering when he has cameras following him, earning him millions of views and plenty of praises.
“Maree did an interview about being really annoyed and feeling patronized by this, and yet the video is still up,” one commenter noted, while another added, “Would be even nicer if it wasn’t filmed.”
“So men really can never just leave women in peace huh, no matter how old me get,” someone quipped, with another weighing in: “Imagine having the audacity to assume a woman enjoying a coffee by herself in a food court needs her day improved.”
One other individual joked that it was a way to “spread kindness if you can film it.”
However, in a statement, Harrison’s management team insisted it was all about trust and making connections with others.
“Harrison has a TikTok following of 3 million and after a recent trip to LA decided to change the focus of his channel to concentrate on random acts of kindness after witnessing the extent of the poverty and homelessness in a city where that shouldn’t be the case,” they said. “He offers flowers and pays for complete strangers’ groceries and while cynics may claim it’s for views, Harrison has made no revenue off of this video.
“He simply has a personal commitment to helping people feel more connected and trusting. Apart from Maree, so far Harrison has only encountered gratitude for what he has done.
“He would not want something designed to spread love and compassion to cause anyone concern,” they concluded.