Much controversy has swirled around the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Supporters and fans argue it is a social media craze engaging countless new donors and raising desperately-needed funds for an important cause. Critics argue the Challenge is a prime example of slacktivism, offering individuals the opportunity to believe they have done something to contribute to the solution of a serious social problem—without really doing anything.
A review for those of you who do not know what the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is, using Facebook, individuals challenge three friends and colleagues to have a bucket of ice dumped over their head within the next 24 hours. In one version, the challenge is to make a $100 donation to an ALS-oriented charity or get doused by a bucket of water; in the other more common version, participants donate and douse while filming the ice bucket experience, posting the video to Facebook, and challenging others.
I have a hard time aligning myself with the critics, even though I have read much more of their material than I have from supporters. Some critics are pitting the response to ALS with another important social problem in our world—the availability of fresh, potable water in Africa, arguing against the wasting of buckets of water. Others posit there are more pressing issues in our world, like the police shooting and citizen rioting in Ferguson, MO, where individuals should be using social media, so the argument goes, to engage with that important situation. The arguments fall apart in narration, based on conflation of two separate issues, both deserving attention.
Notwithstanding the idea there are many compelling concerns and problems needing attention throughout the world, The ALS Association is reporting the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $41.8M in less than a month, engaging 739,000 new donors. In a story about the phenomenon in the New York Times, a spokeswoman labeled the money from the Challenge “transformative.”
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease causing increased muscle weakness and atrophy as the disease progresses. Eventually, those with ALS may lose all control over voluntary movement, but maintain nearly complete cognitive functioning. It is the second most common reason behind cancer for using the Death with Dignity Acts in both Oregon and Washington.
I have watched the Challenge with some interest, having a cousin who has been living with ALS since the late 1980s and knowing a significant number of individuals with ALS who have considered or used Death with Dignity to hasten death in light of a severely debilitating illness. Elements of self-aggrandizement, braggadocio, and ego aside, 3/4 of a million individuals have been engaged enough with the issue to make a donation. The phenomenon is real, not a fluke of social media, and important.
So, I challenge you to the ice bucket challenge. Let’s take this thing over $50M.
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