Social experiment viral videos need to stop

Screenshot of 'Groping on Train Social Experiment' by TrollStation

Screenshot of ‘Groping on Train Social Experiment’ by TrollStation

Why not work on the issues, instead of making videos about them?

By Jessica Berget, Opinions Editor


They’re the equivalent of the “just a prank” viral videos that currently haunt YouTube. Now these viral vloggers are pretending to be activists, operating under the guise of altruism by claiming that these social experiment videos are made to “raise awareness” about sociological issues, but they do nothing of the sort.

In one such “experiment” video made by TrollStation, a female and male actor are hired to re-enact a sexual assault on the London Underground to see if people would react. As the female actress claimed in the video, “We’re trying to raise awareness about sexual assault on trains because a lot of the times, people see it happening and no one says anything.” Passengers started to act aggressively towards the male actor, until the cameramen stepped in and revealed to everyone that they were actors conducting a social experiment.

I find it ironic that by trying to illustrate human indifference in their videos, they end up showing their own indifference to people’s feelings. I believe that these videos don’t serve any purpose except to shock and record peoples’ reactions for entertainment and viewership. People are treated as puppets in these experiments, rather than as human beings. That is why I think these videos can barely be considered “social experiments.” Social experiments are usually carried out by psychological and sociological experts, not by a couple of people with a camera. Proper experiments will also have a large sample size, rather than a few people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Furthermore, social experiments seek to answer questions about sociology and psychology, not to cause public disturbances for the sake of entertainment. They also usually require informed consent with the participants and are formulated for the purpose of collecting data. They have a hypothesis, structure, and protocol, a conclusive discussion, and give compensation for participation, among many other factors. In short, social experiments usually yield some insight and knowledge, and I think these videos show a critical absence of both.

These experiments are unethical and have serious consequences. Most include recreating shocking and upsetting events, and most of the time participants don’t realize they are part of the experiment. For example, YouTuber Cody Persin filmed a social experiment video about the dangers of social media by catfishing young girls. When he met with the girls, their parents came out to surprise them and scream at them for meeting with a stranger from the internet. Persin even pretended to kidnap one girl with her parents playing along as kidnappers, traumatizing the girl in the process. In the video, after they reveal that it’s an experiment they talk to her about her behaviour on the internet, apparently teaching her a lesson about the dangers of social media. This girl will probably be terrified of strangers for the rest of her life and never trust her parents again, but it’s okay because it was a social experiment and it taught her a lesson? I don’t think so.

There are other ways to confront issues; faking scenarios and filming people’s reactions is not one of them. These

YouTubers don’t really care about the issues, only the views.

The Other Press

The Other Press, Douglas College's student newspaper since 1976. Articles, insight and updates from the New West and Coquitlam campuses.

More Posts - Website