The Problem With Social Experiment Videos


Social experiment videos are quickly becoming an internet phenomenon, claiming to show viewers a harsh ‘truth’ about the world. But just how truthful are these experiments and could they potentially end up doing real damage to people?

One of the most recent videos of many to appear on YouTube is entitled ‘Homeless Drug Addict VS Homeless Father (Social Experiment)‘, which involves a man dressing up to look homeless and begging for money to buy drugs and alcohol. Several pedestrians stop to give him money, with one telling him to ‘stay high, man’, essentially fuelling his addictions. This prompts a real shock factor for many viewers, especially when the video later cuts to the same man asking for money to help him and his ‘daughter’ as people walk by and ignore them, until a homeless woman finally comes along and donates her day’s wage to them.

For a second, you almost believe it. Almost…

The problem I have with this video is that it contradicts itself. The message at the end states that ‘sometimes those who have less, are the ones who give more’, which implies that we are supposed to be struck by the fact that people who had plenty of money ignored someone who had none, whilst the homeless woman gave them everything she had. What then was the relevance of the beginning of the video? It has nothing to do with the final message since plenty of people gave the first homeless man money in the beginning. One would expect the message to be that people have their priorities the wrong way round (which may still be false, since we don’t know if people actually did give the ‘dad’ money, but were edited out). Although this is just a small observation about the video, it leads me to believe that the cliche ‘inspirational’ sentence at the end of the video was included simply to appeal to the emotions of the viewers, thus causing them to share the video and make it go viral.

Secondly, these ‘experiments’ are not conducted in such a way that we may be provided with accurate information. We are essentially watching an edited video, which shows us only what the editor wants us to see, and therefore we cannot be sure if what we are watching is entirely truthful. Also this ‘experiment’ was conducted in one location on the same day, where no average result can be collected, so we must take this into consideration when watching these types of videos.

So why are they going to all this effort to make a viral video? Money. The more views they get, the fatter their wallet gets. I’m not saying that homelessness isn’t a problem and that something doesn’t need to be done about it; in fact I’m saying quite the opposite – it’s disgusting how many homeless people are actually being affected by these types of videos, while those who upload them benefit. This is helpfully explained in the video below:

But this isn’t the only affected group.

Although homeless people appear to be the most popular victims subjects of these videos, there are plenty of other viral social experiments that have been confirmed as fake. Some of you may have seen one in which a ‘drunk’ girl walks around Hollywood to see what happens when she asks men for help to get home. Whilst we all know that there have been cases in the past where this does end badly, the video seeks to tarnish all men with the same brush. 24 year old actress, Jennifer Box, recently spoke out here about the ‘damaging‘ effects of the video, claiming that she wasn’t told the real purpose of it and that all the male co-stars were ‘nothing but perfect gentlemen’. So if everyone in the video was an actor, then this is not an accurate social experiment and proves nothing, except that these videos seek to tarnish our perceptions of others for the sake of internet hits.

Whilst many of these ‘social experiments’ appear to be an attempt to change the world for the better, they are actually damaging large groups of people’s lives, and that is the problem with viral social experiment videos.


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