Like it or not the Ice Bucket Challenge is working


The internet can’t stand a good thing. Something good goes viral or catches on and then everyone looks for cracks or flaws to tear it down to have the satisfaction to be the one to say “see how dumb you were for participating in, watching, or otherwise having hope in this.” The Ice Bucket challenge is a perfect example…

Yes, I know everyone and their mom is doing it. Yes, I know it can get really annoying to hear about it like, say, every 10 seconds – but the fact is that this simple gesture that generated steam when Pete Frates, a 29-year-old former baseball player diagnose with ALS, shared his challenge on Facebook has raised both awareness and dollars. It is working. The Ice Bucket Challenge is making a difference.

Arielle Pardes, a writer for Vice, went all in on in eviscerating the concept:

The idea is to dump a bucket of ice water over your head and “nominate” others to do the same, as a way of promoting awareness about ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease). If you don’t accept the challenge, you have to donate $100 to an ALS association of your choice. It’s like a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity.

There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but most the annoying is that it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism. By the time the summer heat cools off and ice water no longer feels refreshing, people will have completely forgotten about ALS. It’s trendy to pretend that we care, but eventually, those trends fade away.

A Slate writer went as far as to call for a boycott and this popular meme has been making the rounds:


Kara Brown with Jezebel basically reiterated the point with a caveat about raising actual dollars:

I’m not sure how raising awareness is actively helping people who suffer from ALS. Does pouring a bucket of ice water over your head get us any closer to finding a cure? Unless this translates into some sort of donation or perhaps volunteering your time, it’s hard to see how this aids in enacting any changes. What it does do is help those participating feel very good about themselves and all the good goodness they’re doing.

Pay attention, here’s what has happened since this thing went viral via the NYT:

People have shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook between June 1 and Aug. 13 and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since July 29, according to those sites. Donations to the ALS Association have spiked. As of Sunday, the association said it had received $13.3 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.7 million during the same period last year. It said there were about 260,000 new donors. (With a spate of celebrities and business executives joining in over the past few days and pledging contributions, that number is expected to rise.)


Frates married last year before being diagnosed and is expecting a baby with his wife this month. He has lost the ability to move his arms and his legs and is communicating through eye gaze technology. He said in a video in July:

“The story right now goes: You’ve got ALS, have it for a little while, a long while, but either way, the end is always the same. ALS always wins. So in order to rewrite the end of it, we need to raise awareness, money.”

Awareness – check. Money – check.

Hey, I’m as guilty as the next guy – and even more so in this line of work – in being skeptical of these types of viral trends. I’m sure plenty of folks are doing it just for attention and the initial concept of either donating or getting the bucket makes for easy fodder (most high-profile people who have participated have done both btw), I can’t argue with the results and I don’t think Mr. Frates is either.

Think what you will of the Ice Bucket Challenge but it’s working and that’s a good thing.

To find out more about ALS and how you can help we encourage you to visit the ALS Association page here.

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