The Ice Bucket Challenge has completely taken over my social media feeds. It’s impossible to log onto Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram without coming across videos of accepted challenges. As someone who never thought she’d run a charity and is learning as she goes, it’s been beneficial and thrilling to watch the campaign take the world completely by storm. But like anything else that goes viral, I’ve started to see a backlash, and I think that’s disappointing.
If you somehow aren’t familiar, the Ice Bucket Challenge (IBC for short) involves dumping a bucket of ice water on your head AND/OR donating money to the ALS Association. After you complete the challenge, you charge three to five new people to complete the challenge within 24 hours. I’ve watched almost all of the videos that have come across my feed, and it’s been fun. Most people are pretty straight-forward with their videos, but some have been amazingly creative. There have also been dozens of celebrities who’ve taken part (like Taylor Swift, Jimmy Fallon, and Britney Spears), which is a huge coup for the ALS Association.
The grumbles I’ve seen usually fall into the following camps:
1. The Ice Bucket Challenge is “slacktivism” and does nothing to educate the masses about ALS.
While I’m certain there are people participating in the IBC who don’t really understand the point of it, I think they are far outnumbered by the people who have had their eyes opened to ALS. I see at least two threads every day where a commenter states they’d never heard of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease before the challenge. That’s a huge victory right there! If a person is suddenly aware of a disease without being personally affected by it, they are more likely to pay attention to it in the future, and more likely to donate funds when they’re available – especially the IBC challengers who now do have a connection to the disease, albeit a superficial one. While the campaign may not spread individual facts about ALS, it makes the disease itself known, allowing people to find out more information on their own time.
2. The Ice Bucket Challenge is just about people who want attention -if they truly cared they’d just quietly donate money.
More than 1.2 million IBC videos have been posted to social media since the end of July. That’s 1.2 million pieces of free advertising and awareness, including HUGE celebrities lending their names to the cause. You couldn’t DREAM of better exposure than that! The numbers also prove that while lots people are posting videos, many of them are also making donations. In the last twenty days, the IBC has raised over $15.6 million for the ALS Association, which included money from over 307,000 new donors. In less than three weeks! Compare that to the $1.7 million the ALS Association raised in the same time period last year and you really see how successful this movement has been.
3. The Ice Bucket Challenge is bullying people into paying attention to a charity that doesn’t affect them/they don’t care about.
This is the argument that saddens me the most. Why do we have to be personally touched by something to acknowledge its importance? Around 5,600 new cases of ALS are diagnosed every year, a small number to be sure. That does not mean it isn’t a devastating disease that’s unworthy of any research or attention. ALS doesn’t discriminate – literally anyone can get it. But guess what? No one is forcing you to participate. I’ve also seen plenty of videos where the person taking the challenge used the opportunity to mention ALS and the charity of their choice.
3b. There are more deserving charities than the ALS Association.
UGH. I’m sure there are charities you have a personal interest in for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t make the ALS Association less deserving. Talk like that diminishes everyone who has suffered from ALS, and that’s unfair. Every charity is important. Instead of whining about the charities you wish were benefitting from the challenge, donate to them. In fact, donate every time you see an Ice Bucket Challenge video. And while you’re at it, try to think about a way to raise awareness for your chosen charities that doesn’t devalue the importance of another charity.
I would LOVE for there to be a viral movement like this that raised money and awareness for maternal/fetal health issues, prematurity, and NICU families. I do NOT want that at the expense of the ALS Association. I hope that with all of the money they’ve raised they’re able to make huge strides in research. And I hope that all of us trying to raise awareness for our causes remember that there’s room for everyone.