2014 review: 5 viral social media experiments

  • Osama Salman, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 29, 2014 17:22 IST

Social experiments and the issues of morality usually go hand-in-glove, but 2014 was its defining year. This year the internet - a space that has room for everybody - became the medium to send a strong message. It made us reflect on what we'd do in everyday situations, it made us get into some serious soul-searching - but all in good faith.

Here are the top 5 social experiments of 2014 that deserved our attention.

Rice bucket challenge

On the heels of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge came a social experiment of a different kind. Only, it did not require one to waste a bucket of ice cold water. The Rice Bucket Challenge involved donating a bucket of rice to a person or family with lesser means, and like the ALS challenge too nominating two others to carry the gesture forward. Appreciation came from all corners, and 38-year-old Manju Latha Kalanidhi who started the alternative challenge, became a household name.

New York catcalling video

Walking down the streets of New York for 10 hours, Shoshana Roberts got catcalled over 100 times. And all this was captured by a hidden camera as part of a social experiment to highlight street harassment. This set the ball rolling for similar videos in several cities across the world, including Mumbai and Delhi. Though the video is shrouded by controversy, including showing only black Americans and Latinos 'harassing' the young woman, it makes us question how safe our cities are.

Asking strangers for food

This particular video by OckTV, which went viral in the earlier part of 2014, touches our deepest conscience. An actor, posing as a homeless man, asked several strangers to share their food with him, but all of them refuse. Minutes later, however, the actor gives a genuine homeless man a box of pizza, which he shares (without hesitation, may we add) with another 'homeless' actor. Moved by his great gesture, the actors give $100 dollars to the homeless man. The emotion is overwhelming.

Facebook mood experiment

In 2012, Facebook used software to identify positive and negative words in status updates and to segregate posts into the two categories - positive and negative- for the users' newsfeed. Then, the social network giant manipulated the newsfeeds of almost 700,000 users to see if the emotion they picked up through the content on their newsfeeds impacted the emotion they then displayed through their own posts. Needless to say, when this report was made public in May this year, it created quite a stir.

Harassing a girl from the northeast

It's not a new topic, but the subject holds relevance even today. Time and again, we read stories about the people from the northeast getting picked on, only because they don't look or speak 'Indian'. The diversity factor, that we should otherwise be proud of, is thrown out of the window. A social experiment using a hidden camera by TroubleSeekerTeam on YouTube, highlighted how little passers-by in Delhi - which is the hub of racism - cared even though a girl from the northeast was being verbally abused by a more mainstream looking 'Indian'.
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