The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

als 1Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for raising money for the ALS Association.  It’s a horrible debilitating disease that I didn’t know much about until someone I know came down with it.  Now I see that person deteriorating away and it’s very difficult to watch.  I know Stephen Hawking has it, and I respect him more than I respect most people.  It must be horrible to be completely conscious of what’s happening to you, but to not have any way of fighting it or stopping it.  When I thought to write about this today, I actually stopped and went on the ALS website (http://www.alsa.org/) and donated $100.  I think everyone who reads this blog post should stop right here, link up to the website and do the same.  Then come back and continue reading.

It is true that the pervasiveness of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised record amounts for the ALS Association, and they have more donations this year than ever before (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jose-costa/why-the-als-ice-bucket-ch_1_b_5697932.html?utm_hp_ref=business&ir=Business), but, for most it has ceased to be about raising money and it has become about showing your friends that you did it.

If you go onto YouTube and type “ice bucket challenge” in the search bar, you get a slew of videos of young people doing the ice bucket challenge.  I don’t know how many, I lost count (and the count increases daily).  Of the 18 videos that I watched, only 1 mentioned donating money to ALS.  All the other ones called it the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” but that’s where the connection to ALS stopped.  Incidentally, the one that showed a donation was the one where Laura Bush dumps the bucket of ice water on George W. Bush.  When the celebrities and politicians do it, they do speak about ALS and the good that the ALS Association does in helping to find a cure for the disease.  Even the famous people who have declined to do the challenge (Barack Obama, of course, is one of them) have made sure to let the public know that they are donating money to the cause.  This aspect of donating money has been lost by most in the frenzy over the ice bucket challenge.

People have lost the reason behind it.  When I asked one of my friends (who posted a video of him and his son doing it) if he donated to ALSA, he said that doing the challenge meant that you didn’t have to donate, that only people who turned down the challenge had to donate.  THAT’S COMPLETELY WRONG!  You donate whether or not you do the challenge.  People who choose not to do it should just donate a little more.  “But,” he said, “you do the challenge to “raise awareness” of ALS and the fight that many people are having with the disease.”

Ah…”raise awareness,” the cry of the slacktivist!  “Why do you wear a pink ribbon?  To raise awareness for breast cancer.  Have you donated money, or done any activities to actually help the Cancer Society raise funds?  What?  Huh?”  This is slacktivism.  The slacktivist thinks that by clicking “like” on a post denouncing ISIS on Facebook that they are doing something.  They think that wearing a ribbon or a “Live Strong” bracelet is actually making a difference.  They think typing their name on an internet petition for…whatever…is going to save the world!  They forget that these organizations need volunteers and money, not someone placing the flavor of the month charity bauble on themselves.  These organizations are nonprofit, they thrive on the actual help of people who donate their time and money.  The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has become the newest slacktivist “must-do!”  It’s no longer about actually raising money for the organization, but about showing off to your friends that you did the ice bucket challenge.  I’m sure if you ask 10 of the people who posted a video of themselves pouring ice water over their head on YouTube (the “regular” people, not celebrities) if they donated money to ALSA, at least 9 will say no.

I have to digress a minute.  Most of the celebrities and politicians that have done the challenge take the time to talk about ALS and about their donations, so it’s not all bad, albeit the photo op of the month for celebrities and politicians (hell, the entire Kennedy family did it)!  I’m actually surprised I haven’t seen Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or any of the other grandstanders taking charge and doing the challenge.  These people try to remember the reason behind the challenge and they make a point to talk about it.  All the young people out there who are doing it to show off, or who are making a big deal out of it and not actually donating any money to ALS have broken the rule of the challenge.  They are doing it wrong, but they MUST let everyone know they did it; for their 5 seconds of YouTube fame with their friends.  A wonderful thing that has made a lot of money for an organization that does good has been bastardized into the flavor of the month on Youtube.  I only hope that people continue to remember the point of the challenge and continue to donate to the ALSA.

At least it’s better than the Fire Challenge!

 

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