My Short Discourse on the Ice Bucket Challenge

I know much has already been said about this ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’, obvious given the international viral status it has been assigned. A phenomenon, even, but perhaps not all surprising considering the elements involved:

  1. Either donate a sum of money towards funding for researching a cure for ALS, or do the forfeit (as I would call it)
  2. The forfeit consists of:
  3. Getting ice-cold water/ice and water dumped on you
  4. A video is taken of the act and uploaded onto social networking site(s)
  5. You nominate three others to do the Challenge (number varies I think).

While some may object to me calling it a forfeit, I have my reasons. Of course, it definitely would not have been labelled a forfeit at the start simply because there was not enough public (let alone international) knowledge of this Challenge, and it is a given that the nature of the whole ice-dumping procedure caused the skyrocketing fame. That is a given – the Challenge serves (or served?) to raise awareness of the cause and in the hopes of obtaining more donations. Briefly, the ‘nature’ of the ice-dumping includes the hilarity/amusement, the lightness, the showmanship; later on, the nature evolved to include the virality of it all.

About this virality… did it change much? Yes. First, plenty was donated. $88.5 million from July 29 – August 26. Clearly people are not just dumping but donating too. That is encouraging. The Challenge has more than fulfilled its purpose, for sure; it probably never saw this coming. That contributes to the increasing notion that there is a lesser need to donate and more reasons to dump. Secondly, the virality provided a very compelling reason for potentials to choose dump over donate. Of course, I believe it is not necessarily bad if one does both. But joining in on a fad in which many dump, the tendency can be to steal the limelight from ‘donate’. After all, dumping is the one that gets (generally) more likes, (visual) recognition, and lets you have good fun (a) fulfilling a friend’s nomination and (b) nominating others.

The challenge is not inherently flawed, but with what many have turned it into (a fad nonetheless, even in the name of ‘raising awareness’ (what is this ‘ALS’ you speak of?) ), it is imperative that we at least get our priorities straight. Sure, donations are overflowing and we can continue this fad for fun, riding the wave while it is still high (because yes, it will die down after a while). But it does ideological injustice to the nobility of the challenge: to forget empathy and true understanding of the pain of ALS sufferers is penultimate. At least there is a generally better reason to donate than to dump – there are less distractions and side quests, more giving and less expecting to receive (attention? applause? affection? approval?)

I may be wrong about that very last part, but it would seem to me the visibility of videos coming from this virality has much greater venom.


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