“Social Experiment” Videos Are Harmful

There is a disturbing online trend in which so called “Social Experiments” are enacted on the public. These videos are paraded on social blogs and often try to serve some elementary critique of modern Western societies. These videos are unprofessional and highly problematic. 

A variety of these videos exist but some of the more troubling and reoccurring themes depict Westerner’s reactions towards perceived Muslims.

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These types of videos and public “experiments” are predatory and exploitative. These content creators are playing off people’s prejudices and fears in order to gain YouTube followers and to profit off of the ad revenue. They are being dishonest about their intentions and their actions have serious consequences.

In the example of the Muslim social experiments, the videos are actually making the situations even worse. Every educated citizen is aware of the complications currently revolving around Muslims in the West. When someone makes a video showing white people scared of innocent Muslims, or running from a fake bomb, all this does is add to the hatred, bigotry, and sensationalism.

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There is of course value in real social experiments. Social psychologists for years have conducted ethically approved and scientifically driven experiments to learn invaluable information about social systems and the way we live together as a species. These YouTube videos do not contribute to the academic research. These videos are done without ethical considerations, they do not conduct themselves under experimental guidelines such as proper samples, and concerningly, many are even faked with actors to illicit controversial and click bait worthy reactions.

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These video creators exploit social issues, but since they call them “social experiments”, they are able to get away with abhorrent and shameful behavior. Silly or playful social experiments and pranks, such as the classic Just for Laughs: Gags, demonstrated the way you can tastefully mess with a public audience. However pretending to sexually assault someone, or start a fight, or steal from them, or to pretend you are a terrorist, etc., is shameful, crude, and should not be tolerated. Just because you are conducting a “social experiment” does not exclude you from ethical and moral standards. No you are not “raising awareness”, no you are not showing a “critique of society”, no you are not “testing people’s morals”.

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If in any other situation you pretended to be a terrorist for entertainment you would be reprimanded and publicly shamed. If you saw a friend pretend to lose their wallet near a homeless man in order to film their reaction for entertainment you would be appalled. Creating fear, or playing off of racism or sexism, or mentally attacking someone, under the pretense of a “social experiment” is shameful and dishonest. You are not excluded from responsibilities as soon as you place “(Social Experiment)” in your YouTube title.

These people exploit complicated problems for entertainment, they often try to bring out the worst in people for their own gain, and we should not support them.

By Daniel Govedar (Sept 2016) (Edited Feb 2017)

 

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