Two mornings ago, I awoke to find that my brother-in-law had tagged me on Facebook to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
For those who are somehow unaware of this social media activation, it’s exactly what it sounds like: you dump a bucket of ice water on your head to raise awareness for ALS.
Secretly I hoped nobody would tag me, because nobody wants to dump a bucket of ice water on their head, but I guess the odds weren’t in my favor. When a social cause has reached the point where celebrities like Bill Gates and Jimmy Fallon are doing it, it’s only a matter of time until us regular folk get involved.
To date, the challenge has raised more than $4 million for the cause. That’s more than double what they raised last year.
But like anything born on social media, there are dissenters.
The publication Quartz says that all of these donations to ALS are taking away from potentially donating to other charities.
The Huffington Post plays the “slacktivism” card to say all this challenge has done is get us talking about the disease, while conveniently ignoring the fact that it has raised millions of dollars.
I’ve even seen people flat-out not accept the challenge because they’d rather write a check. (Or, maybe they just don’t want to document being icy water poured on their head.)
I’m more interested in whether this is merely social media guilting us into doing something we’d rather not do.
When your friends are calling you out publicly to participate, you can’t exactly not do it, lest you want them to give you a hard time about it. So you do participate, then challenge three other friends to do the same because, well those are the rules.
By doing so, we are essentially clearing our conscience and putting the onus on somebody else to try and not break the chain.
This challenge brings together two polar opposites to accomplish the goal: calling out people on Facebook and Twitter to participate (which is the worst) and donating money to a good cause (which I endorse).
When the final numbers are tallied, we will undoubtedly see that it was a success. And, who knows, maybe that dollar you donated will lead to a cure for this terrible disease one day.
But peer pressure to participate in anything is the worst kind of pressure, and this is taking it to the max.
For the record, I shot a video and challenged three of my friends to do it, both because it’s a good cause and because I didn’t want to be the one to break the chain.
It’s a double-edged sword, this Ice Bucket Challenge. And with its success will bring many copycats looking to get in on this trend.
I’ve even heard that an organization is working on something to bring awareness to depression in light of Robin Williams’ death.
If that becomes a success, we will never stop this train.
We live in a world where, thanks to social media, you can communicate with practically anyone. It’s an amazing thing. But with that brings the ability to tap into our guilty consciences simply by tagging someone from the comfort of our living room.
I’ve yet to determine if that’s a good thing, and I’m not sure I ever will.