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Sunday, December 10, 2023


ALS Ice Bucket Challenge encourages philanthropy through social media

Ice Bucket Challenge

Francis Emelogu/The Cougar

The latest social media trend involves plenty of ice, water and a bucket — and it’s all for a good cause. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice cold water on someone’s head to promote the awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis while also encouraging participants to donate to research efforts.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by muscle spasms and difficulty speaking and breathing.

“They say the feeling you get when the ice water hits your body simulates the way people with ALS feel all the time,” said media production senior Raven Hurst. “I can’t imagine living that way.”

The challenge begins with nominated participants filming themselves in the act, and then they nominate others to take on the same challenge. Choice of response typically provides a 24-hour window to complete the challenge or “forfeit” by giving a charitable donation to the cause.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has surpassed a simple social media trend and has found itself taking over everyone’s Facebook or Instagram news feeds this summer.

In recent weeks, the ice bucket challenge has faced criticism. One can argue that the fun-nature aspect cannibalizes on the intention of this challenge. It almost seems self-serving and acts as an easy way to say, “Look at me. I’m charitable because I’m doing this.”

While I don’t believe the majority of the public is taking part to simply substitute for other charitable acts, I hope people remember the motion behind the challenge and the great power that follows its virality.

Believe it or not, the ALS Association didn’t start the ice bucket challenge. That social influence was started by young people who wanted to support the cause. Successful charitable giving is private and personal, brought on by the asking of one’s family and friends.

The impact isn’t the funny reactions from people dumping ice water on their heads. It doesn’t come from the creative or visual aspect of these ice bucket videos. The true impact comes when the participant looks into the camera challenging their friends and family, starting a domino effect that hopefully increases the ice bucket challenge’s longevity.

According to CNN, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge works because “instead of outside experts driving the allocation of volunteer time and charitable donations, it’s the power of suggestion.” Persuasion is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to trends and the start of a social movement.

The ice bucket challenge is big enough in the United States to reach Hollywood celebrities. Even Wall Street bankers and “The Simpsons” have been caught by the influence of this social phenomena.

UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator accepted many nominations for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Tuesday and completed the challenge by nominating the entire UH student body.

“I think it has a positive effect, but I think people lose sight of what its purpose is,” said public relations junior Kevin Arevalo. “The fact that people have been doing the challenge and there are more people aware of ALS is what matters.”

When the latest charitable trend faces criticism, people attempt to find fault in the display of charitable acts. The point of it isn’t to say, “I’m doing charity.” The point is to raise awareness and actually donate to whichever cause one is supporting. Complying with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge does not excuse one from donating, but rather gives the participant the freedom to choose the monetary amount they will donate.

One may wonder what good millions of videos with people dumping ice water on themselves can do for ALS. The answer is nothing, because the impact lies within the content of these videos. By mentioning the ALS Association and where to go to make a donation, people are alleviating the potential issues with criticism on this philanthropy.

According to TIME Magazine, donations from the Ice Bucket Challenge broke the $100 million mark. Over three million donors have contributed to the cause since the challenge hit mainstream in July. Last year, the ALS Association raised $2.8 million in the same period, giving a good idea of just how powerful a movement can become when everyone gets involved.

While I don’t expect to see social media flooded with ice bucket videos forever, I think this social phenomenon will change how we view philanthropy. People inherently want to give back, one just has to know how to make the cause appealing to the masses.

Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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