Over time, social media has become a platform for many ridiculous, attention-grabbing memes, photos, videos and statuses. The most recent attention-grabbing Internet fad is a string of challenges.
There has been the cinnamon challenge, the pass-out challenge, the fire challenge and the condom challenge. These challenges require participants to harm themselves by swallowing cinnamon, strangling themselves, lighting themselves on fire and snorting a condom, respectively. Each of the challenges has resulted in either serious injuries or death for some participants and has stirred public controversy and attracted media attention.
But now, there is a challenge that has quickly warmed the hearts of Americans and attracted social attention for all the right reasons. Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
The synopsis: Someone is challenged (on social media) to dump a bucket of ice water on his or herself. If they don’t accept the challenge, they have to donate $100 to ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — through the ALS Association. If they do accept, they have 24 hours to record themselves dumping ice water over their heads and post it to social media, where they, in turn, nominate others to complete the challenge. It is also common for one to both donate money and complete the challenge.
A former Boston College baseball player, Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, popularized the challenge in late July.
ALS is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that affects muscle movement in the body. It can eventually result in total paralysis, and the life expectancy once someone is diagnosed is about two to five years.
The sole purpose of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is to raise awareness about the disease, and it has been popular both locally and nationally. Even notable figures — from Jennifer Lopez to Bill Gates — have completed the challenge.
Say what you want, but I believe this challenge has more than served its purpose. According to the ALS Association, $53.3 million was raised between July 29 and August 21 compared to $2.2 million during the same time period last year. Clearly, social media can also be used as a tool to raise awareness and challenge others to do so — not just a platform to share funny photos.
The trend of the Ice Bucket Challenge shows how charitable we all can be. It’s very selfless to take time out of our days to record ourselves dumping ice water on our heads to raise awareness for a disease many of us might not completely understand. Being able to nominate others makes it fun and encourages everyone to get involved.
But, unfortunately, like other social media challenges, I believe that some of the participants in the Ice Bucket Challenge are just looking for views, laughs and new followers. There are plenty of hilarious videos that can be found online of challenges that didn’t go as planned — including one with a lady whose wig came off because the water hit her so hard. Obviously, some intended to make a mockery out of the challenge, but I still think the majority are more concerned with raising awareness for ALS.
Like many, I have been nominated for (and completed) the Ice Bucket Challenge as well.
If you also accept the challenge, I have some advice. Please make sure you have enough ice. This will ensure that the ice does not melt too quickly before you complete the challenge.
Also, keep in mind that this challenge is not just to post on social media — the sole purpose is to raise awareness. More importantly, I challenge you all to educate yourselves on ALS.