Friday, August 15, 2014

My thoughts on #icebucketchallenge

As one of my mid-week confessions I wrote this:

3. I wish every horrible disease and illness got as much attention as ALS is getting right now (and without the gimmick!).

I am sure that this was taken the wrong way by some people, but I have some fairly strong thoughts about the #icebucketchallenge. Let me begin by saying I think it is amazing that so much money has been raised for such a devastating illness. For people to donate millions of dollars in a time period that typically only sees thousands is nothing short of awesome. ALS is a truly horrible illness that needs to be properly researched and funded in order to find a cure. 


I think of many social media "causes" that began as hashtags-- #kony2012 and #bringbackourgirls are two that jump immediately to mind. At their height, these two causes were viral. They were all over FB and Twitter. Celebrities were tweeting their solidarity, teenagers were updating their statuses and attention was heightened about these two causes.

And then there was silence. 

Where are these two causes today? I can't really tell you.

This is why #icebucketchallenge isn't philanthropy. This is what concerns me. This year, millions was raised for ALS research, but what about next year? Or the year after? Certainly, people will tire of filling buckets with ice water and pouring it over their heads in the name of solidarity. Certainly people will forget that this hashtag phenomenon even happened. 

So, is there a solution? Well, I think so. Rather than dumping a bucket of ice water over your head or donating $100 and calling it a day, why not take $10 every month and donate it to a cause (or, a % of your income). Maybe it's ALS research. Maybe it's a cancer fund. Maybe it's a soup kitchen. Or, if donating money isn't your thing, why not donate time? Feed the hungry. Serve the community.

I know the inspiration behind the challenge. I understand the significance. But we can't pat ourselves on the back for supporting a cause and then forget it a week, a month, a year later. Charity should be ongoing. It should sustain. 

Social media is amazing. It spreads the word faster than any other outlet, and makes causes go viral overnight. But it's also a snapshot--an instant--and then it's over. We need to be a society that looks beyond the confines of our FB feeds and twitter updates. We need to see the long term picture. Sure, something is better than nothing, but it's not enough and it never should be.

So, certainly, take up the cause, but don't forget the cause when social media goes silent. Donate, volunteer, and give back as part of a life routine. Don't let the phenomenon fade away.


  1. This is exactly why gun control goes nowhere. Everyone calls for it after there's a horrible shooting, but once the "feeling of the moment" passes, nothing. The commitment, hard work, and sheer patience required to get something through the legislative process is completely absent. I'm not one to encourage the latest linguistic fad of coming up with new names for everything (hashtagging, facebooking, melty sandwiches), but there has to be a name for what you're talking about. In the 19th century they would have called it sentiment, I think.

  2. Maybe this could be something like "flash-in-the-pan philanthropy". Though, that might be too wordy!