The Ice Bucket Challenge is sweeping my Facebook news feed and has gone as far as to be featured the Today Show, so it can now officially be classified as having gone viral. Celebrities like Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart, golfer Michelle Wei and even the Elle.com digital team have participated in pouring buckets of ice water over their heads. Everyone's doing it!
So what exactly is the Ice Bucket Challenge? According to the ALS Association website:
The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness. Those who refuse to take the challenge are asked to make a donation to the ALS charity of their choice.
I tend to be skeptical of organizations or campaigns where the main focus is to "raise awareness." In this case, I'm not sure how raising awareness is actively helping people who suffer from ALS. Does pouring a bucket of ice water over your head get us any closer to finding a cure? Unless this translates into some sort of donation or perhaps volunteering your time, it's hard to see how this aids in enacting any changes. What it does do is help those participating feel very good about themselves and all the good goodness they're doing.
Now, ALS is a terrible disease and no one is suggesting that raising awareness is entirely unnecessary but regardless, is this really the best way to go about it? There is absolutely no real information being put forth by the Ice Bucket Challenge. I walk away from these videos not really knowing anything more about ALS other than that it exists.
The notion that those who don't participate are asked to donate money is bizarre. The consolation prize is having to make a donation, which is probably not how we should be thinking about this. Perhaps even worse, now we have the people who went ahead and doused themselves feeling like they've really done something to help the cause without actually having done anything.
Plus, am I supposed to feel bad for these people who are shivering and wet on their own accord? Because I'd rather save that concern for people suffering from an actual disease. I suppose it's kind of ballsy to put yourself through a few moments of discomfort, but being ballsy is not the same as being brave.
On the Today segment no one even mentioned ALS. Savannah Guthrie said that the Ice Bucket Challenge participants must either "accept or donate money to charity." And Matt Lauer donated money to the Hospice of Palm Beach County after his challenge, which is great! But not really directly related to ALS. Martha Stewart didn't even mention charity—making it seem like a random dare from Matt Lauer. (She also, rather hilariously, challenges Gwyneth Paltrow and Blake Lively. Can't wait for those videos!)
So maybe the next time you want to help fight a deadly disease, cut a check, volunteer your time, go to medical school—anything but this. Those Facebook likes aren't really helping anyone.
Image via The Today Show