For those few people reading this who have been dwelling in a cave in Greenland all summer and still don’t know what the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is, I shall enlighten you. In July and August of 2014, inspired by similar fundraisers, some folks came up with the CRAZY idea that people should call out contacts on social networks asking them to give $100 to ALS research, or in lieu of the donation, pour a bucket of ice water on their heads. Variations evolved in which people post videos online pouring the bucket of ice on themselves and then still donate to ALS or a different cause if they prefer. Celebrities soon joined the HILARIOUS FUN including Oprah, Charlie Sheen, Bill Gates, and of course, Mark Zuckerberg. The Challenge has become “the thing to do” for people who want to feel part of something — better yet, part of a good cause. Hundreds of thousands are exhilarated by doing the same goofy stuff that the celebrities are doing. Oh, and people want to show off how funny and good they are to all their Facebook friends, and hopefully get “liked.”
Or, perhaps like me, when they were tagged they felt obligated to participate, despite feeling cheesy and too cool for such shenanigans. In any case, according to Forbes.com, during the month of August 2014, the ALS Association received $100 million, compared with $2.6 million during the same period in 2013. More than 3 million people have donated from the Ice Bucket Challenge.
I admit, I don’t give enough money to charity and hardly ever volunteer. Every year I say I will do more charitable things but I don’t. I’m generally inspired to give to a few causes every year, which is better than nothing. As I write this I’m thinking about those few causes that I have contributed to recently and I realize that they are usually ones where I am swept up in the hysteria of the masses. I almost always donate to NPR each year during their year-end drive, I donated to Philippines relief after the country’s typhoon, and I donated to Hurricane Sandy relief. I’m glad I did those things, but now it dawns on me that I was a follower. The Ice Bucket Challenge is this summer’s Hurricane Sandy and I again am a follower. Bottom line, I was challenged to dump a bucket of ice water on my head and give money to ALS research and I’d feel like a jerk not to participate.
I will admit that before my friend “challenged” me on Facebook for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, “ALS” was just another acronym for a horrible disease that I knew nothing about because I don’t think I have personally known anybody who has had it. I was literally getting it confused with MS and Osteoporosis. I didn’t even know that it was the infamous “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” But now I have talked to people whose friends and relatives have had ALS, and read a bit about it on Wikipedia, so at least I know something about the disease. But my bet is that the majority of Ice Bucket Challenge participants still don’t know what ALS is and that half of them have not gotten around to giving money to the cause after all the hoopla.
After I was called out for the challenge last week on Facebook, I saw a powerful video on Facebook of a woman graphically describing the symptoms of the disease. I posted it on my Facebook wall and received only two “likes” (one from my mom, and one from my friend who called me out for the challenge). When I posted the video I decided that if people paid attention to it then I would donate to ALS research but would be off the hook for pouring a bucket of ice water on myself. But because apparently nobody noticed this heartfelt and educational video, I’ve decided I will participate in this ridiculous, but I’ll admit, powerful viral promotion.
It is a pity that this contest was necessary to make me donate to this important cause, but it was. Now I will broadcast my participation and annoy four “friends” on Facebook to hopefully guilt trip one of them into donating to this good cause like me.
Question: Does it bother you when friends lean on you to do good deeds?