‘Feel-good’ content isn’t as ethical as you think. Both creators and consumers are culprits

Twenty-something Melburnian Harrison Pawluck might be doing worse issues than constructing a TikTok viewers by means of “random acts of kindness”.

He’s not out on the streets pulling dangerous pranks or frightening offended confrontations. He doesn’t promote bogus cryptocurrency schemes, most cancers cures or conspiracy theories. As a substitute he movies strangers’ reactions to him doing issues akin to paying for his or her groceries or handing them flowers.

Even so, the controversy sparked by his most profitable video up to now (seen practically 65 million instances) underlines the problematic ethics of “feel-good” content material – each for creators and customers.

The 19-second video exhibits Pawluck asking an aged lady in a meals corridor to carry a bouquet of flowers as he places on a jacket. He then needs her a beautiful day and walks off. “I hope this made her day higher,” the caption reads. It didn’t.

Since turning into conscious of the viral video, Melbourne lady Maree has spoken out about feeling patronised and exploited. Pawluk has supplied an apology of types, however stated he gained’t cease make such movies:

I do know my true intentions and I do know that, if I can encourage even 1% of the folks that watch my content material to go on the market and do one thing good, I’ve finished one thing that I consider is sweet for the world.

This defence would work higher if Pawluck weren’t monetising his movies. The actual fact there’s a marketplace for such content material, nonetheless, raises questions. How can content material be really altruistic with so many business elements at play?

What’s eudaimonic media?

From holding life-affirming indicators in malls to hugging strangers, giving homeless individuals enormous wads of money and rescuing stray animals, “random acts of kindness” have proved a well-liked video style on social media channels.

In media research we name these movies “eudaimonic media” – from the traditional Greek phrase “eudaimonia”. That is typically translated as which means “happiness” however the thinker Aristotle used it to discuss with the very best human good – to dwelling a lifetime of advantage.

In distinction to hedonistic media – content material that’s all about private gratification and pleasure – eudaimonic media is supposed to make us mirror on life’s objective, potential, advantage and which means.

Really feel-good outweighs feel-bad

For all of the deal with social media’s capability to advertise “engagement” by means of sensationalism, polarisation and interesting to individuals’s worst feelings, the marketplace for eudaimonic content material stays far larger.

A survey of greater than 777 million Fb posts in 2019, for instance, discovered “love” emojis accounted for about half of all video reactions in 2018 (in contrast with 4.5% “offended” emojis).

Fb’s most watched video that 12 months, with greater than 361 million views, was of Jay Shetty, a Hindu monk turned life coach/influencer giving an inspirational speak to highschool college students (scored with poignant piano music).

All up Shetty reportedly earned US$1 million in Fb promoting income in 2018 – one thing definitely to encourage Pawluck and his collaborators.

Present me the eudaimonia!

Research point out that eudaimonic media could be a “ethical motivator”, inspiring prosocial behaviour.

However there’s a transparent moral downside when content material creators have excessive hedonistic motivations – fame and fortune – to make “feel-good” movies. With that stress, “acts of kindness” can turn into performative, even exploitative.

A part of any social media influencer’s technique is a type of efficiency, in fact. However with a “eudaimonic” content material creator, it’s exhausting to reconcile virtuous motion with contrived eventualities the place the individuals being filmed are getting used as a way to an finish.

We’re all accountable

It could be simple to deal with Pawluck and his fellow content material creators, however that is a part of the larger systemic downside with social media: that it’s typically delinquent even when showing, superficially, to be prosocial.

The underside line with your complete social media enterprise mannequin is that interesting to, amplifying and manipulating feelings is a surefire solution to improve engagement and monetise content material.

That is the place all of us, as social media customers, have the facility to contribute to the upper good. We have to be extra discerning about the kind of content material we’re encouraging individuals like Pawluck to make although our clicks and feedback.

Watching that video might need momentarily made us really feel good, however did the content material creator really do good? Are they upfront about their monetary motivations? Have they sought permission from their unwitting topics?

As Maree famous after she unwittingly grew to become the star of the newest commercially-motivated social media pattern:

I really feel like clickbait.

Contemplate the influence of your subsequent hit of a feel-good video of a rescued canine or giving these much less lucky cash or meals. Is that this a eudaimonic or money-making second?

Renee Barnes is a senior lecturer of Journalism at College of the Sunshine Coast

This text is republished from The Dialog beneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the authentic article.

Additionally learn: Don’t depart regulation in palms of social media platforms. Govt should re-evaluate its function


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