“ALS” doesn’t stand for “Ice Bucket Challenge”


Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon press

Kazu Koba

Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon press
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has transformed from a way to raise ALS awareness to an attention-seeking social media craze.  Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press

More likes. More comments. More favorites. More attention. More fun.

These days, people shamelessly post videos of themselves pouring ice-water over their heads and believe that they have become an “advocate” of ALS awareness alongside their celebrity heroes.

But are they doing it because they want to spread ALS awareness or just because their friends nominated them?

Do they even know what ALS is?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a disease which affects the nerve cells so they cannot initiate muscle movement. In later stages, the disease can paralyze the entire body and ultimately leads to a patient’s death.

Pete Frates is an ALS patient who wanted to take action and spread awareness about the disease that was consuming him. As an attempt to raise awareness, Frates asked his friends to try the challenge for him, which he saw online. The “Ice Bucket Challenge” invites participants to either pour ice-water over their heads, causing a contraction of the muscles simulating Lou Gehrig’s disease. Then, participants must “nominate” others to do so within 24 hours, donate $100 to the ALS Foundation, or both.

Within a few months, the challenge went viral with already about 2.4 million unique “#ALSIceBucketChallenges” on Instagram.

But there is something wrong about this challenge.

Instead of associating it with a serious disease that affects many people and their loved ones around them, the Ice Bucket Challenge has just become another social media craze that people are passing on mainly due to the popularity of it and the attention that it comes with.

Viral hashtag “#cutforbieber” was a similar phenomenon. In 2013, social media sites exploded with grotesque pictures of self-inflicted cuts from teenagers across the nation, protesting against Justin Bieber’s alleged drug abuse.

Unlike that trend, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a seemingly harmless method of spreading awareness of a worthy cause while also raising lots of money.

The craze has already raised over $100 million compared to the $2.8 million that it raised last year in the same amount of time.

However, according to a financial report by the ALS association, 73 percent of the total donations go towards “overhead expenses, executive salaries and external donations.”

Only 27 percent of people’s donations actually go towards funding ALS research. Only 27 percent of donations actually go towards finding a cure for a disease that many people refer to solely as the “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

The popular social campaign, regardless, has convinced many to donate and caused large sums of money to be raised despite the disappointing share in the donations.

It also causes people to waste considerable amounts of clean water and ice that should be conserved and used in a better way, especially in California during this horrible drought.

Yes, Californians, we are in a drought.

A drought.

Regardless of whether participants are standing in a pool or over a dead patch of grass when pouring the ice-water over their heads, they are still wasting perfectly clean water and then laughing off the pain of the ice-cold water for all of their friends to “like.” Meanwhile, lakes are dried up and expensive crops are forced to survive off of water tanks.

There are countries which struggle to provide clean, fresh water to their people while we’re consciously throwing water here and there in the name of charity or just because our friends are nominating us to do so within 24 hours.

#RubbleBucketChallenge was one negative response to the challenge from a journalist in Gaza, PS, where water and ice are not readily available. Participants pour the plentiful rubble and debris nearby over their heads to raise awareness of their lack of water and power.

Undoubtedly, however, the phenomenon is raising more money and awareness than it would without the challenge.

But why is Donatella Versace asking me to donate to ASL (American Sign Language)? And what’s the point in the Samsung Galaxy S5 attempting the Ice Bucket Challenge along with other fictional characters like Homer Simpson or Kermit the Frog?

At a certain point, the meaning of the ice bucket challenge seems to slowly change from an awareness campaign of what ALS is, to a fun splash with friends because of nominations, attention, and spotlight for celebrities and an advertising opportunity for products and TV shows.

The beauty of the Ice Bucket Challenge is that it has already raised money, awareness, and a lasting impact for ALS research.

But I believe “#ALSicebucketchallenge” will potentially be a failure if it keeps trending as just a water wasting and attention grabbing craze rather than a serious disease that a patient wanted the world to know about.

If it never went viral, would as many people attempted it? Donated to ALS? Or known what ALS is? Probably not.

What do you think?