TikTok influencers interrogate strangers for content

TikTok is a breeding ground for controversial trends to spread rapidly. These trends can range from an offensive dance to a dangerous act, including the blackout challenge, where users try to make themselves pass out by holding their breath. Recently, influencers have been breaching a level of confidentiality by recording strangers without consent and asking personal questions.

A popular example of this trend is displayed through TikToker Caleb Simpson. Simpson approaches random people on the street to ask how much they pay for rent and to take a tour of their living space. These videos have accumulated millions of views. Assumingly, Simpson gets permission to post these videos from the participants considering he enters their homes.

When it comes to posting content that has received clear consent, there should be no problem with sharing strangers’ responses.

Another example is found in observing TikToker Justin Awad who asks random people fairly common knowledge questions. With these videos reaching thousands of views, entertainment is found in laughing at another’s ignorance.

TikTok channel The Bing Buzz also creates content in a similar manner. Asking people what their favorite food is in the area and then visiting the location for a quick bite to eat has allowed this channel to briskly grow.

The trouble with the trend is exhibited through one video these creators posted in July of 2022. In the video, people who denied the creator an interview were posted without their faces being blurred or their voices altered. It would be quite a shock to see your face on your For You page when you were unaware a video was going to be posted.

Undoubtedly, there are laws surrounding a person’s ability to post content featuring strangers in public. However, the current debate regarding these TikToks is centered around the ethics and limitations of these types of posts.

When it comes to posting content that has received clear consent, there should be no problem with sharing strangers’ responses. Especially since the pandemic, there has been a disconnect between people. It is wonderful to see content creators bridging this gap and engaging with others that they most likely would not have spoken to otherwise.

Furthermore, the technology we are also offered today grants us the opportunity to capture moments and experiences like never before. Rather than let our lives fizzle off over generations, we have the capability to log who we are in real-time. These interviews and interactions are a means to keep our stories alive.

Granted, not everyone may have the time or interest to stop for a conversation nor would they be comfortable being filmed. In these cases, it should be acceptable to refuse an exchange. In the example of Simpson, while some people may feel comfortable exposing their cost of living and the space they inhabit, others may not. For those who choose not to participate, they should be able to carry on with their day without societal pressure or being posted despite their resistance.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to be posted should be left to the individual being posted, not the content creator. These strangers are entitled to their privacy and they have the right to decide if they want to participate in another person’s content. Refusing to participate should be respected.



Featured photo courtesy of Alpha Photo, Flickr