Written by Jonathan Barker | Media by Thomas Hajny
During the month of August, many of our Facebook feeds were flooded (no pun intended) by videos titled “The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” or some variation. Participators were shown nominating three or more friends before having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads with the motivation of spreading awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Many well-known names including LeBron James, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and even George W. Bush helped perpetuate the cause. Thanks to this social media phenomenon, over $100 Million has been raised (via alsa.org). The success of the campaign has given us all a warm, fuzzy feeling in our hearts. That’s a good thing, right? Of course it is. I would never bash something with positive results just for the sake of bashing it. However, I believe it is imperative to examine the reasons for taking the challenge.
In my opinion, the problem lies within the fact that many of videos where conforming to peer pressure as the sole motivation for participation. When this happens, a good cause becomes simply another fad that VH1 will reminisce about in 20 years. Even though many participators seemingly had no intentions to donate, their videos were still justified as “spreading awareness” while they did not even mention ALS in their video. I guarantee that by the end of August, there was not a single Facebook-active person who was not “aware.” Even my 65-year-old grandma was active in the comment sections of these videos, and I’m pretty sure she still hasn’t figured out how to use the camera on her iPhone.
I was challenged to participate twice. The way I saw it, the only way for me to be effective was to personally donate. Since at least half of my 438 Facebook friends had already posted videos, I didn’t go along with the “raising awareness” pretext. I would have liked to donate but my bank account thought otherwise. Instead, I decided to defer on the viral challenge.
By now, you may have already written me off as a bitter cynic “hating” on a good cause because he didn’t want to donate. To clarify, I mean no disrespect to anyone who participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In fact, I applaud those who were able to donate. I am simply trying to exemplify an opinion that is easy to condemn.
Overall, I think this was a brilliant campaign and its results are a representation of the beauty of its execution. There may not be a more effective method than to use positive peer pressure to benefit those in need. So I would like to leave the reader with three rhetorical questions: Did you participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge because LeBron James did, or because you saw an opportunity to help those in need? What would be more important to you: Being displayed as a saint on your social media outlet, or finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis while remaining anonymous? Now that the popularity of the challenged has diminished, what is the next step to be taken?