The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is as controversial as it is viral. For every single fad that has been sweeping across the internet as of late, there has always been an accompanying troupe of criticism. Name-calling comes into play. “Slacktivism.” “Hashtag-activism.” “Narcissists.” In my opinion, ignore the whiners. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is not the first, nor the last, of internet trends, and its benefits trump the petty issues that critics seem to hold on to.
The ALS challenge has, as of writing, raised USD$80 million. 80 million. That’s around 40 times more than it received compared to the same period of time last year. The once obscure disease is finally in the spotlight of the public eye and media attention. This is any charity’s dream, especially for smaller ones like the ALS Association. More people than ever before know about the disease, whose victims include Lou Gehrig, the famous baseball player, and Stephen Hawking, the world-famous theoretical physicist, and many have even suggested new research methods and ways to best use the massive influx in donations.
All in all, I think critics of the social movement are suffering from an overdose of idealism. Call me realistic or even cynical, but I believe that to have a disease raise so much public awareness and funding in such a limited timeframe is nothing short of a technological miracle, only made possible through the power of social media. The problems that critics raise are only minor, necessary evils; a little piece of extra baggage that was inevitable in helping this campaign reach the level of success that it did.
Yet these opponents keep whining about how the money could’ve been better spent or where the resources could’ve been better used. “You’re wasting all this water when children in
“It’s all about narcissism and promoting yourself instead of the disease.” Some people may misuse the challenge for publicity – a few more likes on Facebook or Instagram – but at least they’re spreading awareness. However, judging by the numbers, the contrary is quite clear. Egocentrics are in a small minority. The challenge works a bit like advertising. Advertisers don’t expect everyone to buy their product immediately after seeing the ad; but maybe one out of five or ten people will buy the product, or in this case, really do some research and donate to ALS. And when you spread it to millions of people online, that’s a lot of eyes devoted to the cause. Complain all you want about celebrities, say that they’re just doing this for publicity, but they’re taking advantage of their huge fan-bases to encourage more people to both do the challenge and to donate. Countless ALS victims are elated and grateful to know that their disease is garnering so much unprecedented attention.
“You could’ve just donated and not dumped an ice bucket on yourself!” Give us a break, will you? Ignoring the fact that I HIGHLY doubt that just donating yourself and nominating a few other friends to do so would make the movement so viral and spread the way that it did, greatly diminishing the effects of the movement, there’s also the oft-ignored fact that we’re humans after all. We’re social creatures. We want to have fun. We want to be part of a community; part of something that matters. Had we just donated in secret, we would’ve disconnected ourselves from the cause and the campaign. Of course, in the unrealistic, ideal minds of critics, the movement would’ve spread like wildfire just by humbly donating. And everyone would devote time to further research the disease. And the disease would be cured. And we’d all be living in some utopian society.
The internet has seen a lot of trends come and go over the past few years. An inherent characteristic of humans is to be easily influenced and swept away by the newest fad, or the coolest-thing-to-do-right-now. In terms of online trends, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is probably one of the better ones; just think about “planking”, the cinnamon challenge (eating a teaspoon of cinnamon and trying to swallow it), “neknomination” (gulping a glass of beer then nominating friends to do the same), or even the ridiculous knockout challenge (which is to actually make yourself pass out by getting someone to choke you). Now in contrast, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, with its charitable intentions, doesn’t seem so bad anymore, does it?