Why Can't We Stop Exploiting The Homeless For Viral Video Fame?

by
Lauren Burgoon
Think twice before sharing that "eye-opening" homeless person video.

Another day, another eye-opening, amazing, heart-wrenching, heart-warming, [insert your favorite adjective here] video featuring a homeless person and their plight.

It's the big trend lately, to find a homeless person, put them in a situation, record it and uploaded it to YouTube to show us all how insensitive we are to homeless people.

No one's arguing the homeless need more support, more resources and a general attitude change from society. But how does exploiting one person for a viral video accomplish anything?

A "homeless experiment" search on YouTube brings up 127,000 results. You've probably seen plenty. The invisible homeless, the homeless arm wrestler, the waiter for the homeless and even the homeless child experiment -- the list goes on and on. 

Every homeless person's situation and reasons for being on the street is different, but as a population, the homeless are generally more vulnerable. It's why we need to be extra cautious about videos that, while they feel good on their face, can quickly turn exploitative. Everyone's heart aches a bit for the 1:27 video, then we go back to our lives. 

It's true that social media can sometimes foment change. It's also true other times that our online outrage goes viral but never goes anywhere meaningful. How many people can honestly say these homeless experiment videos do anything other than provide a few minutes of diversion? 

We get sad, we get outraged, our eyes are opened -- and then we move on to something else.