I'm sure that by now you've heard of the
Ice Bucket Challenge. Maybe you've been challenged. Maybe
you've dumped ice water on your head. Maybe you've just seen the
myriad of posts on social media of others doing this.
Quickly, for those who have somehow missed what's been going on
for the past few weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge consists of having
someone dump ice water on your head. Alternatively, you can donate
$100 to the ALS Association.
Some versions of the challenge include the ice water AND a donation
of a small amount. Some people have chosen a different organization
or charity for their donation. The challenged then challenges new
people, who have 24 hours to accept the challenge or donate. And
the cycle continues.
The videos have spread like wildfire on social media, and in the
first few weeks of August, the Ice Bucket challenge has become a
More than 1 million challenges have been posted on Facebook.
And maybe you find that annoying. Maybe you think it's "stupid" or
"pointless." Maybe you're tired of the videos crowding your News
Feed on Facebook or taking up too much space on your feeds on
Twitter or Instagram.
Some call it slactivism (essentially doing something on social
media that makes it look like you support a cause without actually
having to do much). Others say it's narcissistic and just for show
and that it won't make a difference for ALS.
But you see, when you post on various social media outlets about
being annoyed by this, you're doing EXACTLY what the originator of
this "challenge" wanted you to do. You're talking about ALS, also
called Lou Gehrig's disease. You're helping to raise awareness of
this progressive neurodegenerative disease, for which there is no
cure and no known cause. Approximately 5,600 people are diagnosed
each year with ALS, and according to the ALS Association, as many
as 30,000 people are living with the disease at any given point.
As the idea began to spread, and more and more people, including
celebrities, started taking the challenge, something really cool
happened: donations to support ALS increased. Not by a little,
either. According to the ALS Association,
$13.3 million has been donated since July 29. During the same
timeframe last year, the association saw $1.7 million in donations.
Moreover, there have been about 260,000 NEW donors to the cause.
How many of them donated because they were challenged or simply
because they saw these challenge videos and thought, "hey, that's a
There's been quite a lot of chatter online about this challenge,
from discussion about how such challenges can--and do--
help raise awareness of public health issues to blogs (like
this one!) talking about why this challenge worked. Of all of them,
this post in Forbes summed up this topic perfectly for me. As
the author discusses why the challenge has been a success, he ends
the post with this: "the moment when I decided the whole thing was
worth it--came in the form of a question from my 16-year-old: "Dad,
what is ALS?"
And isn't that the point? If these videos made someone ask that
question, look it up themselves, or give two minutes worth of
thought to something they wouldn't have otherwise, then the
challenge is working. As someone who has been working in the field
of health communications for more than a decade, I'll be the first
to admit that it's a tricky formula. Sometimes a campaign is a
bust, and sometimes, when the stars align, it's magic.
To learn more about ALS and how you can help support the ALS
Association, visit the ALS