The ice bucket challenge (or #icebucketchallenge, for those who are hashtag-inclined) has been sweeping our nation’s News Feeds. In case you live under a rock, don’t have a Facebook, or have been asleep for a few weeks, the ice bucket challenge is something that was created to raise awareness and money for ALS.
Here’s a pretty good explanation from NBCNews:
The challenge started in Massachusetts with former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2012. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to muscle weakness, loss of the use of arms and legs and difficulty speaking, breathing and swallowing.
After posting their ice bucket videos to social media, participants nominate others to take the plunge and keep the cycle going. If those challenged don’t accept within 24 hours, they’re asked to donate to ALS research or to the charity of their choice.
Here’s what happen when ANYTHING takes off - whether it’s a movie, a song, an app, or, yes - a charitable cause: there’s pushback. People who like to go against the grain for the sake of it start talking loudly about how dumb everyone else is for participating. It’s easy and cool to criticize something that everyone else likes.
I was challenged to do it a week ago. I have to be honest - my first reaction was sort of a groan. I had seen people doing it and wasn’t particularly excited about participating. A big part of that is probably the fact that I don’t like being pressured into doing anything, and that’s what being “nominated” is.
When I thought about it for a couple minutes, though, I quickly came around. This is a good cause that is raising awareness and money, isn’t putting me out, and is actually sort of fun.
Then came the negative reactions. I noticed a couple of my Facebook friends arguing against it. The Huffington Post ran an anti-ice bucket challenge piece. Slate posted something today. Suddenly, there was some backlash. To a charitable phenomena.
As far as I can tell, here are the only three reasons that someone could possibly dislike something like the ice bucket challenge:
- They don’t want to participate
- They like to go against trends
- They fundamentally don’t understand the good that’s happening because of it
Now, they’ll tell you it’s something else. They’ll rail against the cost of ice, “slacktivism,” how dumping ice water on your head has nothing to do with ALS (and that’s true - but what does walking have to do with cancer?), and how it’s a pointless event, because not everyone is donating to the cause.
Here’s a snippet of that sort of mindset from the Huffington Post article:
The whole thinking is that instead of actually donating money, you’re attributing your time and a social post in place of that donation. Basically, instead of donating $10 to Charity XYZ, slacktivism would have you create a Facebook Post about how much you care about Charity XYZ- generating immediate and heightened awareness but lacking any actual donations and long term impact.
"Instead of donating $10 to Charity XYZ…" Huh? Who had their wallet out, ready to donate, only deciding at the last minute to post something on social media instead? This is a false dichotomy.
Here’s the truth about the #icebucketchallenge: Not everyone who has participated cares about the cause. It’s true. In addition, not everyone has donated. I’m sure that some people still don’t even know a thing about ALS but posted a video because it’s trendy.
And you know what? That’s fine. Because if 100 people did the challenge, and out of that group only 70 people know what ALS is, and out of that group, only 25 people donated…that’s okay. Those 25 donations wouldn’t have happened without the ice bucket challenge.
Zoom out and look at the good that has happened because of the ice bucket challenge (and inversely, that wouldn’t have happened without the ice bucket challenge.) We don’t need a 100% donation rate for this to be a success.
And what’s the cost? That some people who made videos for the wrong reasons felt good about themselves and they shouldn’t have? Who cares?
"But what if everyone donated $100?? Wouldn’t that be way better than dumping ice on your head??"
Shut up. Of course it would. It’s not an either-or thing, though. The world would also be a better place if nobody littered, everyone was kind to one another, and the Red Sox won the World Series every year. For now, though, I’ll settle for fewer people littering, more people being kind to one another, and the Sox winning every few seasons (I can dream.)
Then there are these people:
"I’m not going to do the ice bucket challenge because it’s dumb, but I donated $100."
Oh, so you felt the need to broadcast how charitable you are AND simultaneously knock the cause that prompted you to donate in the first place? Cool.
The aforementioned Huffington Post article slipped this in [emphasis mine]:
And although the ALS Assocation has seen as much as four times as many donations during this time period than last year…
This line alone invalidates every other word that the author wasted his time writing.
Finally, if after reading this, you’re still spending any energy arguing why the ice bucket challenge is a poor use of time, effort, and/or attention, you’re living life wrong. Please go away.
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