Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#ALSIceBucketChallenge Takes Over Social Media

Image via The Atlantic

Over the past few weeks peoples’ Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds have been flooded with videos of friends dousing themselves in ice water to support ALS. The challenge goes like this: friends nominate each other to tape a video of themselves dumping ice water on their heads within 24 hours or they have to donate $100 to ALS.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects brain cells and eventually leads to total body paralysis, although the mind remains intact. This disease affects thousands across America, and life expectancy averages about two to five years after diagnosis.

The New York Times reported that donations to the ALS Association have exponentially increased over the last month. “As of Sunday, the association said it had received $13.3 million in donations since July 29. It said there were about 260,000 new donors.

So what is the problem with millions of dollars in new donations as a result of a social media trend?

Many are criticizing the fad because people are just doing the videos to show that they can survive dumping themselves with ice water, almost as an ego boost. And who is checking on the people who do not take the challenge and are supposed to make a donation? Since the donation is an alternative to dumping water on themselves, people do not want to lose the money so they take the challenge.

Although the basic idea of the trend is for a good cause, like anything that reaches the masses, it eventually lost its purpose. Now, it has just become a way to increase social media credibility and gain followers across social media platforms.

Forbes spoke about “slactivism” and how things like this do not really help the cause in the long run. “It’s a substitute for real long-term involvement and engagement. It’s all about showing off for social media. It won’t change a thing, or cure ALS or ease the suffering of those with the disease.”

Most of the videos do not even mention or discuss ALS and how it affects the body, so how is this helping to “strike out ALS”? Instead of having substantive content, the videos are simply a viral trend.

Pete Frates
So how did an ice bucket, a camera, and social media all become intertwined with ALS? That can be credited to Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease. He made one of the first videos in the name of ALS, and his friends and family have helped transform the challenge into a charity fundraiser to help spread awareness.

So, is the ALS ice bucket challenge being completed with the best of intentions, or are people using it as an excuse to watch their friends scream from shock?

Whether the intentions are noble or not, the ALS Association has raised millions to help fight a disease that is affecting thousands across the country, and people that have never heard of the disease are talking about it. Check out their website for more information regarding donations and learn more about the disease.

Even the Kennedy's took on the challenge