If you haven't recently seen a video of someone you know unceremoniously drenching themselves in ice water, you probably live under a rock. And sure, in the dog days of summer, we've all imagined the relief of a gallon or two of cold water rushing down our skin, but these videos are trying to beat something much worse than the heat. These videos are part of a campaign to raise awareness and funds for the fight against ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The challenge is simple: Donate $100 to an organization working towards the fight against ALS, or dump a bucket of ice water over yourself. Just like any popular trend that has spread like wildfire throughout the internet, the challenge has its fair share of negativity. One Tumblr user says "You're not doing it [the challenge] to 'raise awareness,' you're doing it to be part of a stupid and self-serving social media fad. If you really cared and wanted to raise awareness, you'd donate."
In reality, it doesn't matter why you accept the challenge so long as you do. This may sound cynical, but it's mathematically sound. According to Pew Research Center, the average adult Facebook user has 338 friends (and I'm sure for teens, the number is higher). If you consider that 64 percent of these users check Facebook every day, this means that any given Ice Bucket Challenge reaches about 216 people on Facebook alone, and with hashtags to categorize and search for posts, the reach for any given video is likely even greater. Even if none of these people donate as a direct result of the ice bucket challenge, people seeing the videos are more exposed to ALS and what it is, and may decide to donate of their own accord, donate later when they're in a better place fiscally or even volunteer to work with people suffering from the illness. For once, this so-called social media "slacktivism" is helping, unlike campaigns that simply involving sharing a photo or changing a profile picture. The campaign has already seen beneficial results. According to CBS Boston, the campaign has raised $168,000 this past week. In past years, this time period had only brought in $14,000. This week's donations are 12 times the donations of this period in the previous year. The "effectiveness" of this campaign cannot be argued.
Apart from the fiscal results, the campaign is raising so much awareness through social media. Consider how much time in a day you spend reading news articles online. If you didn't know what ALS was prior to this freezing phenomenon, consider how much time you spent reading articles about things you didn't know about. Now compare this with the amount of time you spend scrolling through any social media where you've seen an ice bucket challenge recently. My conjecture is that social media lit the fire that led to you reading this article.
Internet negativity basically affects nothing at all. No number of passive aggressive Facebook statuses or tweets is going to change the rise in donations, and the social media buzz following this campaign has taught so many (myself included) about ALS and the fight for the cure. No matter what your stance on this particular campaign is, it boils down to a lot of money going towards doctors, nurses and scientists trying to improve the quality of life for the ill, and if we can't agree on that, what do we have left?
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