A man says he has been left “traumatized” after seeing a viral video of himself in a grocery store where he had no idea he was being filmed.
At first look, this TikTok posted by user Rustam Raziev might seem like nothing more than a heartwarming random act of kindness.
The video shows a man in a gray jacket waiting to pay for his groceries at Coles checkout in Melbourne before a stranger swoops in and sneakily pays for the lot.
The video, which has amassed more than six million views, was captioned: “My mission? Being myself. Helping others. Become a better version of myself.”
While this seems like a nice gesture, for the man in the video it has had the complete opposite effect.
Esa, who didn’t want his full name published, told the ABC that he had no idea he was being filmed and only found out when he saw the video published online.
He didn’t even realize that his groceries, amounting to about $33, had been paid for by a stranger, let alone that he was being videoed.
When he went to pay the cashier told him everything had been paid for and when Esa asked why he simply said, “It’s all done.”
That was understandably confused but said he thought it must have been some special promotion being run by the supermarket.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later when his friends showed him the TikTok video did he realize what had actually happened.
“I checked (it) out and saw my video, which really creeped me out and made me upset,” he told the ABC.
“I don’t want to be famous, I don’t want people to know about me … and he did it without my consent too. I wasn’t happy about it.”
That came to Australia in 2001 from Afghanistan as an asylum seeker and places a lot of importance on his privacy, so much so that he never even posts videos of himself on his personal social media.
He said he felt “embarrassed, guilty, a bit shocked and sad” after seeing the video, saying it made him look like a “desperate person who needs help”.
“I have friends and family around the world, they’ve been calling me saying: ‘Oh, you need help’ and ‘What happened to you? Someone’s paying for your food’. I was a bit traumatized,” he said.
Looking at the comments on the video, it is clear why Esa has been made to feel this way.
“He looks like he’s going through something I feel bad,” one person said.
Other people said it looked as if Esa was trying not to cry in the video, while others claimed he “probably really needed” the kind gesture.
“He obviously needed that, he couldn’t even turn around as you could see him holding back the emotions,” another person said.
One even claimed: “I think you saved this man.”
This isn’t the first time these ‘random acts of kindness videos’ have backfired, with one Melbourne woman revealing she felt “dehumanised” after seeing herself featured in a similar video.
Last month, Harrison Pawluk uploaded a video of himself to TikTok giving a Melbourne woman, Maree, a bunch of flowers.
The caption on the video, which has been viewed more than 58 million times, read, “I hope this made her day better.”
The 19-second clip shows Maree sitting down for a coffee in a Melbourne food court.
She is unaware that nearby a pair of young men are filming as the Tik Toker approaches and asks her to hold some flowers for him.
He puts on his jacket and back pack and tells her to “have a lovely day”.
It was meant to be a random act of kindness but Maree says she didn’t want the flowers and she most certainly didn’t want the attention of tens of millions of people around the world.
Speaking with ABC Radio Melbourne’s Virginia Trioli, Maree says she feels “dehumanised” and that she challenges the notion that the random act of kindness was random at all.
“A guy came up and asked very politely whether I’d hold these flowers for him, so I did,” Maree explained.
“And, you know, I made a bit of chit chat about, you know, who was the lucky person, blah, blah. And anyway, he said, ‘Oh, someone very special’.
“And then he really just, you know, put his backpack on and his jacket on and just sort of strode off.”
The footage, shared by the 22-year-old to his 3.2 million followers, was picked up by the Daily Mail which ran a story that Maree says misrepresented her as a lonely, sad woman.
“They must have gone through the film and they got this picture of me looking, you know, supposedly crying but it was just a horrible expression. And I just was quite offended.
“He interrupted my quiet time, filmed and uploaded a video without my consent, turning it into something it wasn’t, and I feel like he is making quite a lot of money through it.”