By Chloë Bazlen ‘18
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a remarkable example of how social media has spread its influence, creating a new category of philanthropy that would not have been conceivable even five years ago. This new category, jokingly referred to as “#activism,” poses many questions as to the authenticity and effectiveness of the charitable ventures of social media. For as much as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has done to raise awareness and money for the cause, there are a few flaws in the system to be considered.
First, the challenge easily perpetuates “slacktivism,” or actions that feign activism but actually do little to help the cause. The Ice Bucket Challenge has become known as dumping ice on yourself or donating $100 to ALS research. In theory, one is supposed to donate a smaller amount of money to the association even after dumping ice on oneself, but this fact has been lost in the trend. It promotes a “slackers” culture, making the accepter of the challenge look like an activist while not actually doing anything to help the ALS cause.
Another pitfall of the challenge is the fact that people want to be able to post their videos on Facebook. Getting a new notification makes people feel good about themselves — they love the attention and want a visual representation of their good deed for all of their friends to see. Thus emerges this odd reasoning wherein if you fail to dump ice on yourself, you have seemingly failed to support the fight against ALS. In reality, it is the opposite that is true — the videos mean nothing and the money donated is what actually helps. People are encouraged to choose the route that means more ice and fewer donations.
A third flaw in the challenge relates not to social media but to the environment. California is in a drought. It is something that has been heard a thousand times — so why are so many people dumping water coolers and storage containers full of ice and water on their heads, completely wasting the water that is contained? It is true that not every state is in a drought but the conservation of water should be a top priority. The Ice Bucket Challenge is, in effect, helping one cause only to hurt another. And the real kicker? The water is not even necessary in order to actually provide help.
The ALS Association deserves all of the money and support possible, but draining the planet is unnecessary, as is trying to boost the appearance of philanthropy among Facebook friends in order to help those with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.