The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has three main functions: to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), to utilize social media to promote the campaign itself and to raise money for ALS research organizations. While the objectives of the initiative are positive, one of the three, perhaps even two, were overlooked.
In the excitement of being challenged, the aim of the challenge shifted to posting videos and throwing down the icy gauntlet to pals rather than the heart of the campaign. Instead of fulfilling its purpose of educating the public about ALS and building funds for research, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became a platform for shameless postings on social media.
At the peak of the challenge’s popularity, it was impossible to scroll through Instagram without seeing a celebrity or friend perform the ice bucket challenge every few posts. They were often hilarious, 15-second blurbs that all followed the same script, “Hi, my name is blank and I was nominated by blank to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I nominate blank. You have 24 hours!” Cue the assistant channeling Vanna White to pour water on the participant’s head and a following shrill scream. Raising awareness? Check. Sort of.
If I were to conduct a poll among the participants of the challenge, asking the question, “What is ALS?” I think seven out of ten would most likely fail to give a correct response. For them, it was enough work to fill a bucket with ice water and record a video. They know about ALS, but they don’t know what it is. They don’t know that it slowly, painfully shuts down muscles and organ systems. They don’t know how severely it impairs those suffering from it, nor do they realize how it additionally affects their loved ones.
On the other hand, the remaining minority that could properly explain what the degenerative illness is probably would have been affected by it, whether directly or indirectly. I know about ALS because I was brought up in a baseball family, and I more recently had direct contact with the illness as my best friend’s mom lost her battle with ALS in August of 2013. If not experiencing it in some form or another, few participants may have informed themselves. To those that did, I salute you.
Hollywood starlets and ordinary citizens alike were eager at the chance to post. Donating money to the cause, though? Giving money to ALS research organizations has been an afterthought for a lot of people. Us groundlings would maybe drop a $20, more or less, depending on what limitations we have. Out of all the videos from the rich, famous and beautiful that I’ve seen, I am 100 percent sure that researchers could find a cure using their donations alone––that is, if they were donating like they should.
It’s a moral, humane act to pay your good fortune forward. If you’re blessed monetarily, you should bless monetarily. Don’t get me wrong; I am not protesting against the glory that was Chris Hemsworth’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video, but it’d be even better if I knew he and these famous people were dropping the thousands or millions we all know they’re able to.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was approached with an essence of enthusiasm throughout its duration. It really became a huge excuse for people to post on their various social media accounts. There definitely was a vast increase in donations, but that wasn’t the piece of the challenge that was received with the enthusiasm that it should have been.
The goals of educating others about ALS and raising funds fell short, in my mind making the challenge nothing more than a hot summer craze with little lasting impact on its participants and those it should have benefitted.