Viral TikTok: When “Kindness” Is Toxic

There are thousands of #randomactsofkindness videos on TikTok, but when do they become toxic?

TikTok user Harrison Pawluk made headlines this week after the subject of his viral video was “accidental act of kindness”, Melbourne woman Marie said she felt “inhuman” because of the way she was portrayed and without her consent.

“He interrupted my quiet time, filmed and uploaded the video without my consent, turning it into something it wasn’t, and I feel like he’s making quite a lot of money from it,” she said. ABC.

“It’s a patronizing suggestion that women, especially older women, would be delighted to have some random stranger give them flowers.”

She also pointed out that the redacted version of the events that circulated on social media told a story completely different from reality, although Mr Pavliuk, 22, released a statement claiming the video exists because TikTokker “simply has a personal commitment to helping people feel more connected and trusted.”

A quick TikTok search for #randomactsofkindness turns up thousands of videos, all of which promise to restore your faith in humanity. Some seem sincere and really restore my faith. Others seem overly curated to the point of insincerity, and to be honest, they’ve always annoyed me.

To be honest, this is the same principle for me as avoiding people like the plague when they list “down to earth” or “just a nice guy” on their dating profiles. In my personal experience, truly kind people show rather than tell.

So when does kindness become poisonous? Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno says it’s all about the intention behind the act.

“A random act of kindness definitely becomes something completely different if there is a selfish intent behind it, rather than kindness for the sake of kindness,” she told

“Usually when you want other people to know just for fun, or ask for public praise for a good deed, then it starts to be more about the ego,” she said.

Despite this distinction, Ms. Sokarno notes that not everyone who shares their act of kindness online is necessarily doing so out of selfish motives, although that may be perceived as such.

“If sharing it to encourage others to do good deeds, then that’s a positive intention (although it might not be the right way to do it),” she said.

The point is, there are many reasons to be kind, no matter how many likes you get for it. In addition to making the world a better place, you also get psychological benefits.

“It can boost feelings of confidence, happiness and optimism,” Ms Sokarno said. “This helping behavior has been shown to help increase levels of daily positive emotions and improve overall mental health.”

Interestingly, praising kindness can have a similar effect, but not if your intentions behind the act are not pure.

“If your motivation for an act of kindness is to get more likes on social media or to get people to perceive you in a certain way, then the psychological effects are not the same as if you did something kind without wanting recognition,” Ms Sokarno . said.

“A real act of kindness in itself should be enough to make you feel good, but if you’re only doing it to get praise from others, then it’s really about supporting the ego.”

So there you have it, not all good deeds were created equal and they definitely shouldn’t be used on TikTok for influence or without consent.

Originally published as When is “kindness” not random but completely toxic?