Melbourne woman in viral TikTok 'dehumanised' by 'random act of kindness'
An Australian woman who unwittingly found herself in a viral TikTok video said she feels "offended" and "dehumanised" after millions of people were made to think she is a sad "old woman".
Marie — who chose to withhold her surname — was enjoying a coffee in a Melbourne shopping centre three weeks ago when a young man approached her and asked if she could hold a bunch of flowers.
She didn't know it at the time but she was being filmed for social media content, and the man that approached her was TikTok creator Harrison Pawluk, who has over 3.2 million followers.
It's believed Mr Pawluk was performing "a random act of kindness" in a video that's now received over 58 million views, but Marie doesn't see it that way.
"These artificial things are not random acts of kindness," she told ABC Radio on Tuesday morning.
"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."
Woman accidentally part of viral trend
The video featuring Marie was shared on Mr Pawluk's TikTok and Instagram accounts.
"I hope this made her day better," the caption reads alongside the hashtag #wholesome.
In the footage, Marie is shown sitting in a food court when Mr Pawluk unexpectedly approaches her.
She holds the bunch of flowers while Mr Pawluk takes his jacket from his bag and puts it on. But rather than taking them back, he simply walks away, leaving Marie stunned and seemingly confused.
The "wholesome" act attracted thousands of comments from social media users who dubbed it "beautiful" and "amazing."
"When she started crying I couldn't hold it back," one person said.
Others wrote "she definitely needed this" and "you made her day."
But Marie claimed she wasn't crying at all, it was just a "bad expression", and is "offended" for being painted as a sad "old woman".
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'I feel like clickbait'
Following the encounter, the Melbourne woman said she noticed a bunch of people filming her, but when she asked "did you film that?" they allegedly said "no".
Later that night, a friend of her partner informed them that she featured in a viral video.
At the time, she "didn't think much of it," but texts came rolling in from concerned family and friends who said a news story had been written about her and the video.
"I feel like clickbait," Marie told the ABC.
"It feels it was just a bit of a joke to me. I felt dehumanised."
Marie said if she'd known what Mr Pawluk's real intentions were she would have refused the flowers.
While it is legal to film someone in a public place, Maree issued a warning to others, "especially older women", about the TikTok trend.
Social media star 'not doing it for views'
The 22-year-old content creator is known for his "random acts of kindness" videos and Marie is just one of many who've featured in his clips.
Despite her concerns, Mr Pawluk and his team reportedly deny creating content for views and insist "Harrison simply has a personal commitment to helping people feel more connected and trusting".
A recent trip to LA had inspired him 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," his manager said in a statement to the ABC.
"He would not want something designed to spread love and compassion to cause anyone concern," they concluded.
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