Opinions & Editorials

Ice bucket challenge: heroism or narcissism?

It’s not uncommon these days for different internet challenges to go viral. Some of them are pretty bizarre, such as the currently popular “set yourself on fire” challenge. (Seriously, people are pouring nail polish remover on their bodies and lighting it on fire.) But internet challenges are rarely as important as the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Ice Bucket Challenge.
The idea was created by the ALS Association, and the challenge began gaining popularity in early August. Participants are tasked with filling a bucket with ice water, dumping it onto their heads and posting proof of it on social media. They then challenge three friends to do the same within 24 hours and contribute $10 to ALS research. Alternatively, they can skip the ice and donate $100 (the route I took, as I genuinely couldn’t find a bucket).
Some people participated enthusiastically and contributed their donation. Others had a very negative response. They condemned the challenge as an attention scheme for young people on the Internet.Granted, there are some who did the challenge purely to get on the bandwagon and didn’t donate any money or pay much attention to the disease being discussed, but those people definitely made up the minority.
People have nitpicked every aspect of the challenge down to it being a waste of water. Some claimed that the challenge wasn’t helping to cure ALS or sufficiently spread awareness.
However, those claims have proven false. Since the ALS Challenge has picked up in popularity, almost $80 million has been raised. The popularity has also brought ALS into the public’s awareness and informed people about ALS symptoms and treatment options.
Regardless of the criticisms that have been brought up, the Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t the “slacktivism” we’ve seen before. It has made real people aware of a disease that we formerly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. We live in a country where some teenagers can’t tell you which president is on the $5 bill, and you expect them to know who Lou Gehrig is?
ALS is a devastating neuro-degenerative disease that has been described as your body becoming a tomb. According to the ALS Association, the disease affects over 5,000 people in the U.S. each year, and once a patient is diagnosed, their life expectancy is 2-5 years.
Bo Stern, a woman whose husband is living with ALS, had this to say in her response to the Ice Bucket Challenge: “I think maybe (critics) don’t realize what it’s like to face this insidious disease and then realize that it’s nearly invisible to the rest of the world. As I watch my husband become entombed inside his own body, I feel desperate for people to understand that this sort of inhumane condition exists….if someone gets to look good while plunking their $50 in the ALS tip jar, I have zero problem with that.”
Amelia Ryczek is a junior electronic media major from Chicago.