Stop using charity for your content


Liz LaHood

Digital illustration of a possible thumbnail photo for a MrBeast Youtube video.

Quinn Brown, Writer

It’s a typical Friday night. You are scrolling on your “For You Page,” watching your typical recommended videos from the TikTok algorithm. Suddenly, you come across a new type of video you have not seen before. With your curiosity now sparked, you watch a popular influencer give away a Tesla to a struggling homeless person. Your heart melts as you like the video, leaving a comment about how charitable the creator is. 

Let me tell you a secret: these creators are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. Rather, they are using homeless people to manipulate their viewers, who are typically very young and impressionable. With a closer look, it is obvious that most of these videos are  tasteless and poorly executed, and there is no actual care and concern for the homeless population that is surging nationwide.

While popularized recently, using homeless people in an attempt to gain viewer sympathy is not a brand-new concept for content creators. Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson is one of the most followed creators on YouTube with a total of 133 million subscribers. MrBeast has posted plenty of videos using homeless people in this way;  his video “Giving A Random Homeless Man $10,000,” which was posted five years ago, has 10 million views and half a million likes.

In this video, which immediately begins with a Quidd sponsorship so the viewer is aware MrBeast is making a large profit off the video, he walks up to a “random homeless guy” wearing Calvin Klien slides and waves around an envelope of $10k, which he counted to his audience earlier in the video. During the entire interaction, MrBeast is consistently checking back to ensure the camera is recording him as he gives away the cash.

It could be said that if a homeless person gives consent to be in a video and takes the cash, then they know what they are getting into. However, the footage is still being manipulated, it’s still being edited and most importantly still takes advantage of the homeless person in question. Even the title of the video, “ Giving A Random Homeless Man $10,000,” uses the word “random” on purpose to try to convince the audience that MrBeat does this type of charitable act all the time to the point where it’s randomized.

The charitable act itself is not the issue. MrBeast most likely actually does want to help this man, but his need to achieve a good-image and love from his viewers overrides any good intentions he possibly has. The filming, editing and posting of the assumed kindness from these creators leads to the exploitation of homeless people. Like MrBeast, creators do not understand, or in most cases, ignore the harm of their unethical videos.

Unfortunately, I cannot say whether creators like MrBeast truly want to help the homeless population and donate on their own time, without the usage of a camera. Some of these creators could hypothetically want to help homeless people, as we’re all humans with the capacity to feel sympathy. 

However, this does not mean creators are not using homeless people to appease their need for love and views. When creators film homeless people, they showcase these individuals for all of the internet too see, hence subjecting them to harassment and possible physical harm. Not only that but they also place the homeless population in a box by framing them as struggling individuals who can only survive with our help.

While I think it is good to encourage support for homeless people, shoving a vlog camera in their face is not the way to do it. If you want to support homeless people you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, buy supplies like menstrual products (because they’re still very expensive in 2023!), make blankets or give out clean water, to name a few examples. 

Instead of viewing the homeless like they need “saving,” offer them the help they need and continue on. Without the constant cameras. Doing a good deed for the sake of credit is not helping others, it’s only helping yourself. When giving back, focus on how your actions benefit others rather than yourself.