Free authentic hugs

Intern-al Issues is a fortnightly blog written by our Intern Sean that looks at the latest issues and trends in digital marketing. Enjoy!

Can authentic video only be captured on film these days during moments that arise unexpectedly? We may have created a more engaged world but do we sacrifice authenticity in the process?

I was browsing YouTube recently and came across a video I viewed a few years ago. It was of a train ride filmed in our beautiful city – Perth. One singer and a ukulele player decided to brighten up the Monday morning commute and invite the passengers to sing ‘Over the Rainbow’.

People began singing along to the music but I couldn’t help wonder how authentic it really was. As soon as the song begins countless passengers begin filming the encounter on their phones. And as bleak as it sounds I couldn’t help but wonder if our heightened awareness of viral videos impacts the way we participate when we see cameras.



I’m not going to lie, pondering this idea got pretty dark – pretty quickly. I started thinking we were doomed as a phony society.

How could we capture authentic moments on camera?

I started thinking about what makes an authentic moment. And I was overcome with nostalgia when I remembered the first viral video I ever saw. Many years ago, I received an email from a friend with the YouTube link to the video ‘All the Same’ by Sick Puppies.

Just pause for a moment and take that in.

An email prompting me to access a YouTube video. I’m pretty sure my Dad is the only person in Australia who still does that.

You might know the song better as the ‘Free Hugs’ video – the video of a couple of guys in Sydney holding up a sign that says ‘Free Hugs’. After being banned from Police from doing this they created a petition to allow free hugs.



I remember being in awe when I saw this video. Social Media was beginning to gain traction but nothing like YouTube existed – or nothing that I was aware of.

After re-watching the video, the most noticeable thing was that NO ONE was filming the man with the ‘Free Hugs’ sign on their mobile phone. We were still a few years from the smart phone technology and viral videos were not something the average person was aware of.

I began to think what this video would be like if it was filmed today. Could the author still make this video without their message getting lost in a sea of camera phones. Would this video still go viral? After all, the viral success grew from capturing peoples genuine, honest reaction from a man holding a free hugs sign. People were unaware their response could be seen by millions of people online.

I watched the ‘Free Hugs’ video again, followed by the ‘Perth Train’ video.

Were the passengers on the train any less authentic than the people hugging a stranger?

No. They weren’t.

Sure, the people on the train had a heightened awareness about viral videos but ultimately some people decided to engage with the message, some people decided to record their own video and some people didn’t want to be apart of it. The same way that people engaged with the ‘Free Hugs’ video.

Those who gave the man a hug and those who joined in singing ‘Over the rainbow’ they did so because they believed in the message being spread by the author. Ultimately when people rally behind something they believe in their response will always be authentic – because they want that message to grow. That is why videos like this spread like wildfire and go viral.

These videos were a pleasant reminder if you want to capture authenticity on film and to spread your message online it is crucial for YOU to be authentic.

Remember, hugs are free and fully transferable.

Sean graduated from Murdoch University in 2017 and went from intern to Account Manager with Coffey & Tea. He also contributes to Social Media Perth.