Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dear critics of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: you can shut up now

If you're like me, over the last couple of weeks your Facebook feed has been inundated with friends posting videos of themselves pouring buckets of ice water over their heads in order to raise awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Participants dump a bucket of ice water over their heads, and then challenge their friends to within 24 hours either do the same or donate a certain amount (usually $100) to ALS research.

The viral campaign seems to be doing its job - as of yesterday, almost $80 million has been raised for ALS research and care, which is a considerable increase over the $2.5 million collected over this same time period last year.

Along with generating funds for ALS research, however, the Ice Bucket Challenge is also generating criticism. Naysayers are claiming that the hordes of people posting videos of themselves dousing themselves in cold water is merely an exercise in self-congratulatory narcissism and conceit, or that people are engaging in "slacktivism," i.e. choosing to engage in a trivial activity rather than actually donate money, or that a surge in donations to ALS research will occur at the expense of giving to other charities (see here, here and here for some of these criticisms). And that's to say nothing of people who think that drenching oneself in ice water is fundamentally silly, or who are complaining simply because they've grown tired of videos clogging up their Facebook news feed.

To which my response is: oh, shut up.

The purpose of the Ice Bucket Challenge is to raise awareness and funds for ALS, and in that regard, the Challenge is clearly working. As an added bonus, people are having a lot of fun with it. I agree with The Houston Press's Sean Pendergast, who asks, "who cares about the motivation for people doing the videos if the overall movement has been a rousing success?"
Fundraising of any type requires marketing and an awareness build. That's what the Ice Bucket Challenge is. I lost my mother to breast cancer when she was the age I am today. I think it's awesome that the NFL players wear the pink wristbands and cleats in October. I don't ask for a tabulation of which players are cutting a check to Susan B. Komen and which ones aren't.

I guess my soap box salvo here is that people suck sometimes. Truly, if you're finding a reason to negatively dissect a movement that's raised millions to battle a deadly disease, a movement with which people have simultaneously had some fun, or if you're getting your bitch on because five straight entries on your news feed were Challenge videos (that you can easily skim over), I don't know what to say to you.
I know exactly what to say: shut up.

As with any fad, in a few weeks the novelty of the Ice Bucket Challenge will fade. But by the time that happens it will have significantly raised awareness and probably over $100 million in funds to fight ALS: a horrible, progressive, terminal disease that slowly entombs people inside their own bodies and then suffocates them to death. This is, in fact, of particular interest to me, because just a few weeks ago a good friend of mine lost her mother - somebody I knew - to this nasty disease. (FYI, In lieu of dumping a bucket of ice water over my head, I made a donation to a fund set up in her name.)

Forbes writer Tom Watson lists five reasons why the Ice Bucket Challenge has been so successful. Another Forbes writer, Matthew Herper, rebuts some of the Challenge's criticisms. Here's a perspective from a family who is currently battling ALS. Finally, this video has been making the rounds.

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