I have recently read a slew of criticism for the newly famous ice bucket challenge, which, for those who aren’t aware, is an effort to raise awareness and increase donations for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
The idea is simple: While wearing normal clothes (no swimsuits allowed!), record yourself dumping a bucket of ice water over your head, then call on at least three other friends to complete the challenge.
Finally, post the video to your social media account, while of course taking note of the reason behind the video.
Silly? A little bit. Popular? Extremely.
Those who do not accept the dare are asked to donate $100 to support ALS research.
Former Boston College baseball player, Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with the illness two and a half years ago, initiated the campaign.
Many people have claimed that the campaign is not beneficial and that it just provides a way for participants to display on social media that they are doing some good, without actually helping the cause.
Some have argued that people should be donating directly to an ALS charity, instead of spending the time and money dousing themselves with ice water.
While logically, that option might make more sense, realistically, simple donations, without a catchy social media call-to-action, would just not have gone viral in today’s society. Of course, virality is the key to a successful campaign.
Imagine this scenario: Instead of an ice bucket challenge, the campaign could revolve around the simple request for people to donate. Do you think that campaign would go viral? Do you think awareness and donations would increase as a result?
My guess is, no — or at least not very much.
Although it’s true that pouring a bucket of ice water over your head and posting it to Facebook may not directly help ALS, it definitely helps indirectly. Human beings love to watch things that shock and excite us and the playful, attention-grabbing ice bucket challenge does just that.
I'm sure many of you have wondered about the challenge at some point in the past few weeks: Which celebrity is going to do it next? Which of my friends will participate next and how will they do it? Will I be nominated?
The campaign has created a nationwide stir and is consequently serving its purpose to spread awareness. Awareness is the first step to finding a cure. The chain of events is quite obvious: More awareness will generate more donations, which will lead to more patient support and research.
One day, hopefully sooner than later, a cure will come. According to The Huffington Post, the challenge has already prompted a 1000 percent surge in donations.
Now, someone please explain to me how is this a negative thing? The outpouring of recent donations is a direct consequence of the campaign’s popularity.
Despite how silly the challenge may seem, the figures speak for themselves. My guess is that with ALS in the spotlight, many people are also more knowledgeable about the disease. Contributions aside, I think that fact alone is already a step forward.
Yes, maybe some people are using the challenge to show off how brave they are or to demonstrate their altruism, and undoubtedly, others are simply doing it to jump on the bandwagon, without any consideration as to why they are posting the video.
Ultimately, though, does it really matter? As long as awareness and donations are increasing, then I’d argue that it doesn't. Perhaps the main problem is that many videos are not drawing enough attention to the real issues at hand.
I have spoken with several people who saw a video (or have even watched several of them), but still have no idea what ALS is.
The problem arises when people partake in the challenge, but then make no mention of what it supports and how others can contribute to the cause supposedly being supported.
One way to avoid this is that for those of you who do decide to get involved, don't only include hashtags like #StrikeoutALS and #IceBucketChallenge, but also explain the challenge and why people should donate either in the video itself, or in a written caption.
It is easy for the true meaning to get lost amidst all of the social media noise, so it is important for participants to remember why they are posting the video. Participants should clearly identify the purpose so that oblivious viewers know it to be more than just another entertaining social media stunt.
Of course, participating in the challenge AND donating is the most fruitful option.
Photo Courtesy: Tumblr