ice bucket

Learning to Love the Ice Bucket

So, have you done it yet?

Have you accepted someone’s challenge, propped up your camera, and dumped ice water over your head?

I haven’t, and I won’t.  The whole thing feels a bit too much like slacktivism, and I’m already on record about being wary of anything that claims to “raise awareness.”  Too often, the true goal of such things is to raise your friends’ awareness of your altruism; maybe, by chance, some enlightenment comes along for a ride from time to time.

As of a week ago, I was jotting down notes for a definitively anti-ice-bucket-challenge article, complete with a video of yours truly reading sixty seconds of information about ALS, ending with writing a check to donate to research.  Full disclosure : this idea was as doomed by my change of heart as much as it was by inability to find my physical checkbook.

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The idea of drawing attention to yourself in a goofy display that allowed you to not donate money to charity begs to be labeled narcissistic and foolish.  Of course, as someone with an eponymous website, I should probably refrain from throwing stones about narcissism.

While I still think all of this true, I watched this video clip, and it changed my view :

He’s right.  In addition to his sincere and moving appreciation for finally getting some public attention to such a terrifying struggle, he made a very salient logical point – this whole thing isn’t creating crap that clutters up your Facebook news feed, it’s only temporarily replacing other crap that would have been on your news feed anyway.

So, for these few weeks, we’ll get dozens of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos.  As trite as they’ve become, they’re arguably no worse than the cat memes, videos of unexciting baby firsts, and Zapruder-film-quality cell phone videos from some concert that they will replace.

I think the coincidental timing of the Challenges becoming popular at the same time Facebook started automatically playing videos in news feeds only added to the red-ass of those who were irritated by the Challenge.  A steady scroll of links would be one thing – a trail of unsolicited muted home movies was that much more annoying.

Ultimately, though, there was a greater good from this.  One way or another – and possibly out of spite for the challenges – it has raised awareness, and it has raised money.  The donations have surpassed $70 million, at a rate four times what it was last year at this time.

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There’s an adage that says you know it was a good compromise if both sides walk away unhappy.  Perhaps in an increasingly isolated and self-centered world of social media, this is the way charitable progress happens : with rolled eyes, but meaningful change.

So to those who have taken the Challenge, a reluctant Thank You.

To stay dry and donate to the fight against ALS, click here.


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