The Problem With #ALSIceBucketChallenge

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Taken from:

Catching up with Canada after being a month away has lead to various surprises. Such surprises include how “cold” Canada actually is, the lovely insomnia associated with jetlag, and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

It’s plastered all over Facebook, Youtube, my front yard—people dumping a bucket of ice cold water over their heads, and then nominating three more people to do likewise. They have 24 hours, or they must donate to ALS research.

It’s so viral even Kermit the Frog is doing it:

When this pyramid scheme of a charity campaign reached my house via my sister, I openly refused to be nominated. I’d seen the videos on the internet, and something about the whole thing just seemed…off.

I mean, I understood how clever the idea was. You make people do something stupid (which the internet loves) and attach it to something serious (which the internet usually ignores) so that awareness spreads. And it works. People have been donating, and in the past 48 hours I’ve learned more about ALS than I have ever known before.

Including that, you know, ALS even exists. 

ALS is a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed. Translation: as you get older, you lose control of your muscles, reducing you to little more than a human bean bag chair.

It’s a worthy cause. There are many worthy causes out there, without enough money to fund their research and without a cure, and I’d love to help them all. 

But dumping a bucket of water on my head to help isn’t the way I’d go about it.

A few hours after my sister had poured the water over her head as her friends captured it on her phone, I found myself thinking,

Why didn’t I just accept the nomination and donate some money?

And that was when I realized what was wrong. 

When it comes to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the premise is flawed. The nominees are challenged to dump a bucket of water over their head within 24 hours of their nomination, or else they must donate.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around? 

The pyramid scheme nature of the Ice Bucket Challenge is to access as many people as possible in the fastest and easiest way. A viral video/fad is pretty fast and easy. It’s like the internet is that guy who goes door to door, heckling people for donations that you lie to so that they’ll leave.

Except, the Ice Bucket Challenge offers you the option to lie before donating. 

Shouldn’t the challenge be, 

I nominate you to donate to ALS Research within 24 hours, or else I’ll come over and douse you with a bucket of ice water and video tape it  for all the internet to see?

I know it’s simply a change in order of the options available to you, but in handing the option of donation first, it makes it seem like less of a chore. If donation is treated like a consequence or a punishment, then it’s less appealing. 

I’m glad that the Ice Bucket Challenge is working, and that people are donating to ALS research. But if you ask me to dump a bucket of water on my head?

I’m going to nominate you to donate first, ice water later. 


5 thoughts on “The Problem With #ALSIceBucketChallenge”

  1. You put it into words gal!

    If you don’t mind (which I’m sure you don’t) I’m putting this on my Nerdfighteria group (the regional one) so everybody can read it


  2. Excellent post. The Ice Bucket Challenge finally reached my household yesterday when my brother accepted the challenge. I filmed it for him, but I said, “Aren’t you going to do the challenge AND donate? Otherwise you really aren’t helping the cause…” I’ve read that some rules are you have to do the challenge and then you can donate the amount you want, or you have to donate 100 dollars if you skip the challenge. I just feel like giving people ultimatums takes any genuine generosity out of the giving. Of course, the money helps fund research whether it was given begrudgingly or not, but something about using narcissistic internet trends that encourage the “look at me!” fever people never seem to outgrow these days to raise money feels, as you put it, off. I feel like doing good deeds ought to be its own reward, just as one ought to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Maybe I’m in the minority with that thinking, though.


    1. Exactly! People should want to help, and the throwing an ice bucket over your head has no place in that. For me, the worst thing is “what happens when this trend ends, and the internet no longer cares?”

      Because that’s what the ice bucket challenge does: it makes something serious a passing trend. And it’s sorely depressing to even think that a year or two from now, people are going to forget why they dumped a bucket of ice water on their head and instead focus on the next thing—I don’t know, sticking empty jack o’lanterns on their heads?


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