I don’t know how it started, and I don’t really care. But what may have started out as a fun way to raise funds and awareness for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) aka Lou Gehrig’s disease has just turned into yet another social media fad that has lost its purpose. Yes, I’m talking about the ice bucket challenge.
If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t been online the past few weeks, the ice bucket challenge is an Internet sensation where people dump buckets of ice cold water on their heads, then challenge others to do so, supposedly to raise awareness of ALS. The concept is that you if you don’t accept the challenge you have to donate $100 to the ALS Association. If you do accept, then either you don’t have to donate the money or you just donate $10 (I’ve seen both versions), and you also get to nominate three of your friends to do the same.
This initially may have been a fun way to get people aware of the disease and to donate money to the cause, but the more I see these videos flooding my social media stream, the more I think people don’t get what it’s supposed to be about. People claim they’re doing it to raise awareness of ALS, but do they really know anything about the disease themselves? How about you tell me what the effects of the disease are or how many people are affected by it? Or maybe at least give me a website address I can look up to get more information on my own? How about providing a link where I can donate my money? Sadly, most of the ice bucket challenge videos I’ve seen don’t do any of the above or even mention the monetary choice that is the whole basis of the challenge in the first place.
That’s because this challenge has turned from raising awareness of ALS to raising awareness of individual egos. I see people dumping water on themselves and challenging others, but honestly, if the cause is indeed the reason for the challenge, wouldn’t it benefit more from a $100 donation for not accepting the challenge than a measly $10 donation or no donation at all? I did some research and learned that the ALS Association has raised over $31 million from the ice bucket challenge and that’s terrific. So overall the challenge has been effective and the money will hopefully be used in an effective manner.
But I just don’t feel it’s about the cause anymore. It’s about getting your social media profile more exposure. The ice bucket challenge is a perfect opportunity for the, “Hey, look what I did!” social media generation to pimp themselves out under the ruse of charitable cause. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as narcissistic as anyone else and love to share my experiences on social media as well. But you won’t see me doing the ice bucket challenge. If you really want to help raise awareness and/or money to fight ALS, go ahead and give them some money, then contact your friends, share some information on the disease, and encourage them to do the same. But don’t challenge others to donate less money by dumping water on themselves while not even sharing the slightest bit of information about the very cause you’re supposedly trying to help.
I’m sure the ice bucket challenge won’t go away anytime soon, especially with celebrities jumping on the bandwagon too. But if you’re going to do it, please don’t lose sight of its original purpose and actually attempt to shed some light on why you’re doing it.