Realities of the Ice Bucket Summer




To be honest, I loved watching my Facebook friends get drenched with a bucket of ice water all summer. Often times, I wish I could have helped dump that water on them. It’s like I’m living the daydreams I had back in high school as the mean girls finally get what they deserve. Similarly, I get really excited when I see my favorite athletes and actors get drenched with ice water, too. But I get peeved when it becomes a social media hype that loses the merit of what the entire ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is actually about.

I had a few social media hipster friends who ranted on the waste of freshwater not only as a resource but something we in the first world United States take for granted. With California in the midst of a drought, the facts hold true. But the same could be said for my apartment’s leaking faucet, the sprinklers watering the lawn in front of Main Hall rain or shine and hot water beating down on you because you’re just not ready for the polar vortex that comes with exiting the shower. This does not make the water wasted any worse, but it certainly should not be mind boggling by now. We love to waste water.

But I’m still annoyed. Maybe it’s because I was never nominated myself (what the heck, Facebook friends?). More likely, it’s because I had to witness another great awareness campaign turn into a self-validating, coolness competition by young adults who seek nothing else than each other’s approval. It happened with the “no make-up selfie” and it happened with the Cold Water Challenge (what was that about, anyway?) and it’s happening again. Video after video, tirelessly trying to prove to the friends who are on their third hour of Facebook stalking that you are the coolest of cool Facebook friends to have. The challenge has become a self-congratulatory conquest for the media-hooked click-tivists, and while it has raised donations for ALS and research far beyond any year prior, at what cost?

What does it say of a nation that has to be told by their friends on Facebook to donate and/or do a certain act in the name of a deadly disease? Do we even know what the disease is? Do we even care? Or are we so hung up on the fun factor of participating in the trend that we forget what is at stake?

I had never given much thought to ALS prior to the Ice Bucket Challenge. At the trend’s height this August, I was so annoyed with the excess of videos that I spent my coveted Facebook stalking time actually looking into ALS: the disease, the research and the funding. Unsurprisingly, the disease is horrendous. Also unsurprising, the controversy over their research methods is hotly debated. Some Catholic-based organizations disapprove supporting the ALS research fund due to their use of embryonic stem cells. Animal Rights groups and activists, such as Pamela Anderson, refused to donate due to the organization’s use of animals as test subjects during research. Are these controversies to be ignored in the face of effortless moral licensing?

I am in no way trying to depreciate the momentum toward ALS awareness and research funds the Ice Bucket Challenge generated. Awareness campaigns are a necessary component of any organization that dedicates itself to helping millions of people. Research is a costly enterprise and the groups devoted to it need all the support they can get; no matter how trendy the cause becomes or what motivates the money. We as a nation and global society should be backing these groups one hundred percent at all times. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of them out there and I suggest everyone find a cause to support.

If that group for some people is the ALS research fund, all the power to them. If people who never heard of the disease jumped on the bandwagon and are now full supporters and donors, even better. However, if people continue to instead use the trends of awareness as mere social hypes, turning Facebook into a giant wet tee-shirt contest and then validating themselves by giving money to an organization they know little about and quite possibly disagree with, then I am terrified of what the next “challenge” will really support.


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