Can we stop the whole ice bucket challenge thing now and just go back to donating?
The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket Challenge is a social media phenomenon that is intended to promote awareness about ALS, a crippling disease that affects between 12,000 and 30,000 Americans, depending on where you get your figures. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports as low as 12,000 people have ALS, but major charities claim that number is closer to 30,000.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has grown tremendously famous on social media, but some argue that the trendiness of the challenge oversteps the merit behind the charity. Dominique Santos / Special to Xpress.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has undoubtedly been a success as far as donations go, but what makes this one viral phenomena so influential? Vanity. Trends like these are fueled by our desire to be perceived a certain way. That’s the problem. The massive influx of donations is a side effect of our desire to look charitable, not be charitable.
There are numerous versions, but the whole scene goes something like this: once someone has nominated you to participate, you have 24 hours to donate to an ALS charity or film yourself being covered in ice water. From there, you nominate three other people to participate in the challenge as well.
Participants seek to promote awareness on an exponential scale by encouraging the participation of multiple other people at the end of the video. That’s where the challenge aspect comes in. No one likes to turn down a challenge, and no one wants to look like they don’t care about a good cause. That’s just brilliant marketing.
According to those standards, abstaining from the ice bucket challenge effectively means you don’t want to help those in need – however easy it may be. In this case, many would say the ends justify the means. People are donating; that’s what’s important, right?
Supporters of the challenge point to the financial figures, arguing that the sheer amount of money donated outweighs the criticisms, however valid. The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association reported that they have received 94.9 million dollars in donations since July 29th, almost 35 times what they received in the same period last year, according to a press release published Wednesday.
Those are outstanding figures, but they don’t tell the entire story. It’s a hard question to ask, but does ALS warrant a massive influx of notoriety more so than other illnesses that continue to plague our country?
It’s an uphill battle arguing against the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s for a good cause, it is raising extraordinarily large amounts of money, and the charities it goes to are well-vetted organizations that spend the money responsibly, but there’s more to it than that.
This is not an argument against charity; it’s an argument against jumping on the bandwagon. ALS is a horrible disease and those people who have it deserve as much support as we can muster, but there are other important causes that haven’t received nearly the same amount of coverage.
Suicide prevention is a wonderful example. According to the CDC, suicide made the top ten causes of death in the United States in 2011. Almost 40,000 people died from some form of self-inflicted harm that year, and the trend has continued.
In this country, more people die from suicide every year than there are people with ALS, but our nation’s general aversion to the topic of suicide keeps coverage to a minimum. Is that fair? The answer is no. ALS is just what we want to care about this month.
The bottom line is, a social media trend should not dictate how or why you choose to donate to charity. Honestly, it dilutes the meaning of the gesture.