Lately, it’s been virtually impossible to scroll through your newsfeed on any social media outlet without coming across at least a few clips of friends and celebs alike doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. The trend is so popular, in fact, that it now has its own Wikipedia page explaining the origins and unofficial rules. It even links to a separate Wikipedia page that lists all the notable people who have participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. Although it has grown in popularity over the last few months, has this viral social media trend actually done anything to raise funds for ALS research or increase mainstream awareness of the debilitating disease?
Like any message that is spread via social media, the true nature of the Ice Bucket Challenge has gotten somewhat lost. There are several versions of the challenge, the most popular has participants both dump ice water on their heads AND donate to a charity of their choice but eventually evolved into donating specifically to ALS research. The ALS Association announced last Tuesday that they have received a total of $88.5 million in donations in connection with the vast participation in the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Despite the widespread attention the challenge seems to be getting, few participants actually know what ALS actually is. ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease. According to the ALS Association, it is a “progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.” The Ice Bucket Challenge has received its fair share of criticism for helping to enable “slaktivism,” a combination of “slacker” and “activism” which describes the support of a cause without any actual effort. People simply pour a bucket of ice water over themselves and donate a few dollars to a cause they know little about.
Unfortunately, the Ice Bucket Challenge and the attention to ALS will likely fade into pop culture history as interests move on to the next big trend. But one thing is for sure, this is yet another example of the true power and connectivity of social media and its users.