Just like every other human in the developed world, I’ve done the ice bucket challenge. For those of you who live in caves, the ice bucket challenge is a viral charity campaign that encourages people to douse themselves in freezing water and then nominate their friends to do the same, all in support of charity.
It’s taken me a couple of days to upload mine because in the process of filming it on my phone I managed to drop it (the phone) in the bath. Thankfully, after drying it out in a tub of rice for two days it still seems to be working.
This got me thinking. The fact that I nearly lost a £350 phone in aid of donating a few pounds to charity maybe highlights why crazes like this – even for a good cause – might not always be a good thing.
During my sixth form days, we had an event in which everyone would dress up as a fairy for the day and pay £1 to charity. As per usual, I left it till the day before to sort out a costume so, once school was over, I trundled down to Claire’s Accessories to purchase one of their finest, cheapest fairy costumes. I was informed by the cashier that people from my school had depleted most of their stock so all they had left was a tiny pink child-sized tutu. Needless to say I bought it and needless to say I looked fabulous, but the point I’m making is that me paying £10 for an ill-fitting tutu that I would never wear again in order to donate £1 to charity makes no sense. If I’m honest, I wasn’t doing it because I had any particular desire to support the cause, or for charity in general, but because all my friends were doing it. And I think that it’s the same for many of us with the ice bucket challenge.
That said, millions have been raised to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or what we in the UK call motor neurone disease (MND). The ALS association in America who started the campaign have earned over $100million in donations. That’s $100million dollars for MND research/care that would have never been donated if not for the challenge. And while I’ve seen posts/videos scrutinisng how ALS association spends it money – apparently it’s not as efficient as it could be: much more goes on marketing than research, for example – it can’t be denied that the money will do a lot of good.
All I’m saying is that we should all think a little more. Just think about what we’re doing and why. Like other online nominating trends (e.g. Neknomination and Cancer Research’s No Make-up selfie), some more sinister than others, the ice bucket challenge thrives on peer pressure, emotional blackmail and narcissism, and could only have worked in our age of social media. Now I’m not so naive as to be unaware that most charity donations are the result of peer pressure, emotional blackmail and narcissism, but I do think that we should consider things for ourselves a bit more.
Let’s not do things like this just because everyone else is, or even just because we’ve been nominated and don’t want to seem cowardly to our friends. There are LOADS of great charities doing loads of great work. Let’s think about what we want to support and let’s just go for it.
If I’ve understood it correctly, when the challenge first came about, the idea was that, once nominated, if you don’t complete the challenge within 24 hours you had to donate $100 to ALS association, but you escaped the donation if you did it in time. This sounds silly to me and I hope that many who did the challenge still were able to donate something. Probably because most people I know are poor students who don’t have $100 to spare, let alone pounds, the form I’ve seen the challenge take compels everyone nominated to take up the challenge and then donate at least something to support MND (or to another cause as some people do).
I’ve seen articles calling things like this “slacktivism” i.e. self-aggrandinsing activism that actually achieves very little, and while this is undoubtedly true, I do think that slacktivism is still better than nothing. Similar arguments were leveled at the #bringbackourgirls trend in support of the over 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls who, by the way, are still missing, let’s not forget. Once again, while it’s true that tweeting does little other than raise awareness, it’s still better than nothing, which is often the sum total of what is contributed by those who turn their noses up at slacktivism and hashtag activism.
We shouldn’t really need a gimmick like this challenge to donate to charity, but for many of us it’s a helpful reminder. This isn’t a bad thing, but let’s be more mindful of what we’re doing and why. Before you’re caught up in a stampede, you should at least think about where they’re headed before you run along after them.
That perhaps slightly confused metaphor was my best attempt at being deep, but that’s all you’re getting.
To sum up my point in two sentences: don’t be that boy sat in an expensive too-tight tutu (my alliteration game is sick) putting a pound into the charity pot. That guy’s a loser.
P.S. CRY is the charity I dressed as a fairy for.
P.P.S. I’m just gonna leave this here…..