Unless you’ve managed to completely isolate yourself from social media, you’ve probably seen at least one video of someone doing the ALS ice bucket challenge.
For those of you who are indeed living under rocks (And thanks for cutting yourself off from everything EXCEPT my blog; I’m very touched), the challenge goes as such: A person records a video in which they dump a bucket of ice water on their head. They then make a challenge to several of their friends: Either donate $100 to an organization that is working to help treat and cure ALS, or record a similar bucket dumping video (along with a $10 donation).
Thus far, the campaign has been immensely successful, raising over $10 million, which is about an $8 million increase over last year. You’d think that everyone would be happy about this.
Apparently not. As the saying goes, “haters gonna hate.”
It seems that there is a growing movement of people who oppose the ice bucket challenge. Their reasons are varied, but here are the more prominent arguments:
It doesn’t actually raise awareness
Some people are critical because they feel the videos aren’t really raising “awareness” of the disease. They complain that in most people’s videos, there is no talk about the disease, only ice water dumping.
My question to those critics: Before this campaign, when was the last time you thought about ALS? Would you have even considered donating money to help the disease if not for this challenge?
Here’s the thing about charitable causes: Most people in America don’t actually give a crap about them. Sure, in theory, we’d all like to see ALS be cured, but how many of us REALLY care? Or at least care enough to the point where we’d spontaneously donate money?
A couple of months ago, if you asked the following questions to most Americans, I’m pretty sure you would get answers similar to these:
1. Have you heard of ALS?
Yes. Isn’t that Lou Gehrig’s disease?
2. Do you know what ALS actually is?
No, not really.
3. Do you think it would be good if a cure was found for ALS?
Yes, of course.
4. Are you planning on donating money to help find a cure for ALS?
That is why raising awareness for these causes is so crucial. There is intense competition for charitable donations, so these organizations need to figure out a way to get people to choose them. If the ice bucket challenge has gotten people talking about ALS, then it’s a huge win for ALS charities.
If you are a supporter of a different charity, and you’re worried that this campaign might be cannibalizing some of the money that might support your charity…you’re probably right.
On one hand, there’s a theory that “a rising tide lifts all boats:” If people start donating money to one charity, it might prompt them to also give to other charities as well. On the other hand, I’m sure that some of the money that has been donated to ALS would have probably gone elsewhere if not for the ice bucket challenge.
It’s now up to these other charities to figure out a way to get people to support their cause. That may prove to be the true “ice bucket challenge.”
It’s slacktivism, not activism
Some people are annoyed because they feel that the campaign is an example of “slacktivism.”
There seems to be a growing sense of annoyance at people who act like dumping water on their heads makes them some sort of hero. If they were truly heroes, they’d do more than dump a bucket of water on their head and then discuss their “noble” deed on Facebook.
Dumping a bucket of water over your head obviously isn’t the same as making a dedicated effort to fight the disease. On the other hand, slacktivism is still better than doing nothing. These people have helped raise awareness and money for the cause, so it isn’t like they haven’t contributed anything.
I’m sure that some people have participated in the challenge only for the attention. But at least their attention grab may benefit someone besides themselves. So what’s the harm?
If you find the ice bucket videos to be annoying, then there’s a good chance you are annoyed by a lot of things on social media. If you don’t want to watch any more videos of people dumping water on their heads, then nobody is going to force you to watch. Just scroll on down to the next item on your news feed, and find something new to get annoyed about.
Don’t dump water, just donate
Some critics have raised this question: Instead of participating in a viral social media fad, why not just donate more money instead?
The answer is simple: A donation is nice, but that’s as far as it goes. It doesn’t necessarily raise awareness of the cause and doesn’t prompt others to do the same.
It would be nice if everyone just decided to spontaneously donate $100 to help fight ALS. Here are some other things that would be nice:
1. My employer deciding to spontaneously double my salary.
2. The Appetite for Destruction lineup of Guns N’ Roses reuniting.
3. Pluto being reinstated as a planet.
4. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl.
5. My daughter going an entire day without throwing a fit about something.
Unfortunately, I don’t envision any of those things actually happening any time soon.
There’s something noble about making an non-publicized or anonymous donation. But there’s also something to be said for making a highly publicized donation as well.
When a celebrity publicly supports a charity, it is a mutually beneficial relationship. The celebrity gets a PR boost, and their fame may prompt others to support the cause as well. If that same celebrity made a non-publicized donation, it would still help, but it likely wouldn’t cause John Q. Public to join in.
It’s a waste of water
There are some people concerned about the amount of clean, usable water that has been dumped out due to the challenge. I realize that there are heavy droughts in areas, but is the ice bucket challenge really using that much water?
If people are that concerned about the water supply, I think there are many other ways where they could find ways to conserve.
In the end, there’s really no reason to be upset about the ice bucket challenge. It a brilliant campaign that has raised millions of dollars for a good cause.
If you’re still upset about it, then perhaps you’re the one who needs a bucket of cold water dumped over your head.