My cousin nominated me for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last week. At first, my thoughts were set. I would not be a follower and dump a bucket of ice on my head just because everyone else is doing it. I would just donate and leave it at that. Donating would be easier and less humiliating.
Working in non-profit public relations, I soon realized that this initiative to raise awareness and critical funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed, was actually quite brilliant.
No long term commitment necessary. No high price fundraiser admission fee. All the control to have as much fun as possible and pass the torch to whomever one should choose.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is currently receiving a lot of backlash, as people are forgetting to link to their local nonprofit for the disease encouraging others to donate. The same thing happened with the No Makeup Selfie, which raised breast cancer awareness (you know, getting away from all things pink ribbon).
However, the Ice Bucket Challenge and the No Makeup Selfie are ways for people to do something about something else without having to spend money (though donations are encouraged). These campaigns get people talking about causes without forcing them to go to a library’s public health fair.
I’ve been to those and I considered dunking my entire body in coffee. I don’t even drink coffee.
People also seem annoyed at the trend for its overwhelming social media presence.
We are so obsessed with social media because it changes all the time. When we look at our Facebook news feed, we expect to see a change every few seconds. Whether the content is a photo of someone’s lunch or a video of a 101-year-old woman reciting a quirky poem, there is always something different to look at.
When initiatives go viral, they start to over consume our news feeds and that’s really bothersome. Now, when we look at our social media home pages, we only see one thing: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (and comments about how annoying it is). Seeing one thing all the time doesn’t spark our interest because it isn’t new. Therefore, we get bored because of a lack of stimulation.
Just as the first time a person may have her or his eyebrows waxed and feel pain, the more times they experience the procedure, the less pain they may feel as a result of becoming accustomed to the feeling. The more one may get their eyebrows waxed, the less they may fear the pain previously felt.
I recently read a book called “How to Change the World” by John-Paul Flintoff. Mainly, examples throughout refer to protests, movements that had great political influence and leadership. However, the author shows the reader that to change the world does not mean we must have millions of dollars or pounds of bravery and smarts. Instead, it means we have to have a will to do something.
In 20 years from now, when my children are learning about the history of social media, they will hear about the absurdity of the selfie craze along with the meaning behind a hashtag. Yet, they will also learn of the amazing things users on social media platforms were able to accomplish as a result of coming together to create change.
Though we aren’t standing up in front of a physical crowd with our life on the line and though we aren’t personally giving nonprofits millions of dollars from our hard earned savings, we are making a global impact by supporting initiatives that provoke change through economically sensible measures.
It has been known forever that word travels fast. Gossip is to humans as gas is to cars. We need to chat about things and people around us, whether positive or negative.
Social media provides a faster way to talk bad about someone else, yes, but it also makes it easier to share something important with network upon network upon network.
When people start talking about a campaign involving millions of people on and offline, that is what causes world change.
We cannot sit here idly, twiddling our thumbs and simultaneously find a cure for Alzheimer’s or any other disease, for that matter. This is just as Rosa Parks couldn’t provoke change during the African-American civil rights movement if she chose to give her seat to that white passenger on December 1, 1955.
I’m not saying my $50 donation to the ALS Society of Canada and the fact that I dumped a huge bucket of ice water on my head last week made the world different. However, if we were all to dump ice on our heads and donate, then challenge someone else to it, that would move us in the right direction.
It already has, of course.
The ALS Society of Canada says they have raised close to $10 million as a result of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The money raised through this initiative is four million dollars shy of the organization’s annual budget. The ALS Association in the United States says it has received close to $95 million in donations as a result of the Ice Bucket Challenge in under one month.
For all those who did the Challenge but did not donate, they probably got at least two other social networks talking about ALS – an awful disease where 80 per cent of people will die within two to five years of diagnosis – unable to breathe or swallow. Since we’re being honest, I never knew this stat until I looked up “ALS” after my cousin nominated me to complete the Challenge. Being nominated had an impact on me, because I acquired something from it, and on others, because I am now talking about ALS and sharing what I know with someone else who may not have known a thing!
Awareness is key. We are fortunate to have free platforms where we can make everyone aware of whatever we feel is important. Though some people take this gift for granted (posting the Ice Bucket Challenge perhaps for an increasing number of likes and profile views) and though others post too many TMI statuses, there is evidence with the Ice Bucket Challenge showing the impact anyone can have, regardless of their financial capabilities.
Pennies add up and shared words are powerful.