As a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, I like to think I was one of the first people within my group of Facebook friends to know about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that’s been spreading like a venereal disease.
In early August, our quarterback Matty Ice was one of the first to dump a bucket of ice (how appropriate) over his head in the name of spreading awareness for ALS, which most people know as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Since then, scores of other people have done the same thing, from regular people like you and me to other athletes and celebrities like Conan O’Brien.
Ha, those gingers are something else.
Apparently all that ice has made some kind of difference, as it’s been reported by sources like USATODAY that the popular challenge has raised over $2 million for the national ALS Association since late July.
That’s a dramatic rise from the same time period last year, when “only” $25,000 came in.
Unfortunately, there’s still something incredibly idiotic about this whole thing, and it’s in the wording of the challenge itself.
“I nominate [at least three unlucky people’s names] to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. You have 24 hours to dump a bucket of ice over your head or donate $100 to the ALS Foundation.”
Ummmm…. just one question… why is that “or” there?
I’ve been examining my Facebook friends to see who chooses to do both the challenge and donate, or just donate money. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of people are opting to take the easy way out and just do the challenge (which means only doing the ice).
What the fuck is the point of that!?
For me, it’s not even about the notion of wasting clean water – clean water gets wasted all the time all over the nation for even more useless reasons.
The real problem is the notion of inactive activism. Hey, here’s a quick question: what do Joseph Kony and Lou Gehrig have in common?
Easy. They were both the centerpiece of trendy, social media activism, which is also equivalent to doing pretty much nothing.
At least the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is doing some good, although I’m genuinely curious to see how much the donations are skewed by the money provided by celebrities (and by the way, it’s also pretty shitty for someone with a ton of money to do the challenge and only donate the requested $100).
Kony 2012, on the other hand, was one of the best examples of activism gone wrong. Everything about it was messed up, from the very organization that was doing the activism (all you have to do is google “Kony 2012 scam”), to prioritizing a bum like Kony when there were (and are) so many more pressing issues at hand.
I guess the real question is this: does awareness mean anything and is there a difference between awareness and trending?
Awareness is absolutely important. Without awareness, nobody would even know something existed. Hey, you know what I found kind of funny? People are using “ALS” instead of “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” and I have a sneaky idea why: it’s so the disease sounds more mysterious.
Think about it! People don’t really care about issues they already know about. That’s why nobody cares about gang warfare or homelessness. It’s not special; it’s just a part of our lives now. It’s also why people get worked up about mass shootings, but don’t give a shit about the gun violence that occurs all over the country on a daily basis.
Saying “ALS” instead of “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” makes it seem different, like people are supporting a new cause.
I’m willing to bet that the biggest awareness people have been enlightened to is that ALS and Lou Gehrig’s Disease are the same thing. Also, $2 million is huge compared to $25,000. But I wonder how many foundations and charities have gotten far less than that – especially within one month.
So that was a very sly move to do… and I’m a cynical piece of shit. Let’s move on.
Anyway, awareness is definitely vital. People are wrong if they think awareness doesn’t matter. But it depends on the context. That’s why awareness is different from something simply trending.
Everybody knows what Lou Gehrig’s Disease is, or they’ve at least heard of it. So this isn’t about awareness, really, is it? It’s more about getting it to trend, which isn’t bad or anything (seriously, no sarcasm there).
But there are also lots of other issues that could use awareness, only people aren’t talking about them. You know, issues like common myths people believe. Oh well.
I do want to end with this: for the record, while there are lots of negatives to this whole ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I do think a lot of good has come from it too (although, again, numbers don’t tell the whole truth). I just wish there was a more efficient way for people to actually make a difference, instead of pouring ice over themselves and having a good time under the guise of actually doing something good.
Oh wait – there is a more efficient method: just donate the money, you idiots.