Leave me alone

Not everybody loves receiving TikTokers' 'random acts of kindness'

“I feel like clickbait.”

Maree, subject of a recent viral video

A young man is holding a beautiful bouquet of autumn flowers in his hand. The guy decided to make a ...

A Melbourne woman was thrust into the spotlight after a TikToker performed a “random act of kindness” to her. But she’s not so pleased about the online attention — nor is she impressed with the inauthentic gift.

In the video, TikToker Harrison Pawluk asks a stranger in a public shopping area to hold a bouquet of flowers while he puts on a jacket. Instead of asking for the flowers back, he then wishes her a good day and leaves. The clip shows Maree throwing her head back, and the dramatic music leads you to think she’s overwhelmed with gratitude. But in reality, she reports feeling more annoyed than touched. The video has nearly 60 million views and 11 million likes. “I hope this made her day better ❤️,” says the caption.

It didn’t — Her name is Maree, and she told ABC Radio Melbourne that she wasn’t particularly happy to receive the bouquet. “I didn’t want to carry them home on the tram, to really be quite frank.” And she doesn’t think that the stunt — purportedly a random act of kindness — was doing any good at all. “These artificial things are not random acts of kindness,” she says. She also says she didn’t understand that she was being recorded, and she was surprised to find out later that her likeness was plastered on phone screens across the world.“I feel like clickbait,” Maree said. She’s certainly not the first person to be unwittingly hurled into the public eye.

Pawluk, the 22-year-old content creator, has amassed 3.2 million followers for performing odd stunts like free hugs, quizzing strangers on world flags, and asking people on the street to rate shirtless photos. Among the cottage industry of guys recording themselves doing weird things to strangers in public, it’s pretty run-of-the-mill.

Prank videos aren’t all fun and games — When the cameras stop rolling and emotional background music stops, both pranksters and victims can face unwelcome consequences. YouTubers have faced criminal charges for incidents that cause genuine distress — like a fake gallery heist or a staged kidnapping. A decade ago, “do it for the Vine” became the new double-dog dare. Swallow your pride, make a fool of yourself for a few seconds, and bask in the prospect of online virality. But the stunts frequently go too far.

Certain trends are dangerous to the participant: overdosing on Benadryl, downing Tide Pods, climbing rickety stacks of milk crates, choking down cinnamon, the list goes on and on.