opinion

Maree was given flowers on TikTok in a 'random act of kindness.' Except it wasn't kind at all.

Listen to this story being read by Gemma Bath here. 


Last month, a video filmed in a Melbourne shopping centre food court was uploaded to TikTok. 

A young man walks up to an older woman minding her own business over a cup of coffee, and asks her to hold a bunch of flowers for him while he rummages around in his backpack. 

He pulls out his jacket, zips up his bag and then tells her "have a lovely day," before walking away. 

The camera zooms in, and the emotional Sam Smith song playing over the top hits a crescendo as the woman realises they were meant for her. 

At the time of writing, the 19 second video has 59.6 million views and more than 33,000 comments. 

"Me crying with her," one reads.

"She needed those flowers," says another. 

Watch: the video. (Note Mamamia has decided to include the video for context.)


Video via TikTok @lifeofharrison

The video is just one example of a growing genre of 'kindness porn' going viral on the social media platform. Another popular trope is paying for people's groceries when they're not looking. 

These videos usually feature younger creators (in this instance, 22-year-old Harrison) trying to cheer up or surprise older people. People who they deem - just by looking at them - might need some brightness in their day. 

But as Maree pointed out in an interview with ABC Radio, she didn't want any of this; the flowers, the random act of kindness, or her face going viral on a social media platform she's not even a part of. 

"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.

"It's the patronising assumption that women, especially older women, will be thrilled by some random stranger giving them flowers," she said. 

What that video fails to show is that Maree realised after he walked away that she was being filmed by a group of people a few feet away. But when she asked them if they were filming, they told her 'no'. So she asked them if they wanted the flowers. 

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To be quite frank, Maree didn't want the flowers. She didn't want to take them on the tram home, and if the man had actually asked her if she'd wanted them instead of just leaving them with her, she would've politely declined. 

Commenters on the video jumped to the conclusion that Maree was crying at the gesture. But she wasn't, that was just a reaction. One she didn't realise was being filmed. 

They assumed that her day had been made. That it needed to be made by a young man she didn't know with a bunch of flowers. It didn't. She was perfectly happy. 

As Maree told the ABC, she has found the whole ordeal - the TikTok, and the articles written off the back of it, calling her elderly and making note of the 'heartbreaking tale' - dehumanising. 

"I feel like clickbait," she said. "These artificial things are not random acts of kindness... I think other women, especially older women, should be aware that if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody."

I know a lot of women around me who watched this video and Maree's reaction and have felt incensed with anger. 

So women of a certain age now have to worry about passersby taking pity on them? Assuming the worst of them and their lives based on, what, their age? 

Of course, there are plenty of people I am sure who would've loved to recieve a bunch of flowers from Harrison on a random Tuesday. 

But it's the assumption that sucks. 

"I hope this made her day better," the video was captioned, as if by way of just existing Maree's day needed to be made better.

It's a dangerous slope TikTok is taking us down, one where younger creators assume that being old is inherently sad. 

Because that's what this is really about. 

If Harrison had given those flowers to a younger woman, would he have used that caption? 

What about that sad, emotional music? 

The last thing women need is to be manipulated and exploited for views. Maree was just trying to enjoy a coffee in peace. She is not your kindness porn.

And she really didn't appreciate having to lug a bunch of flowers home she never wanted in the first place.  

For more from Gemma Bath, you can follow her Instagram or Twitter, or read more of her writing, here.

Feature image: TikTok/Mamamia.