Ice bucket activism leaves me cold

Over the past two months the internet has been bombarded by videos showing our friends and the famous dumping buckets of ice water over their heads, supposedly with the purpose of raising awareness of and funds for ALS. As a result, the debate over whether or not these videos are making a difference or whether they are in fact narcissism dressed as charity has arisen. This dilemma reflects a similar situation caused by the no makeup selfie craze in aid of cancer research where many claimed it was a tool for vanity, not charity.

I hope I am not the only one who was unsure of what ALS actually was as these Ice Bucket Challenges began appearing on my social media feeds. ALS is in fact the umbrella term used when referring to motor neurone disease. It is progressively degenerative and in the long term causes paralysis of the voluntary muscles, hence, it can eventually affect the breathing of a sufferer. Unfortunately there is currently no cure for ALS. However, there are several medical trials underway making any possible increase in fundraising and public awareness extremely important.

The Ice Bucket Challenge videos became associated with ALS after the money raised by a humorous challenge between friends was donated to the cause as the nominees cousin was a sufferer. The trend then began to spiral as nominees became famous allowing for a vaster audience.

The importance of the awareness raised by the Ice Bucket Challenges has, unfortunately, become undermined by many through their lack of acknowledgement of the cause in their videos. While those like David Beckham and Lady Gaga were keen to strip down to minimum clothing in front of a camera to have ice poured over them, it seems neither of them had enough time to explain what the purpose of it actually was. Arguably, through their involvement and their wide spheres of public influence, the spread of the Ice Bucket Challenge has widened further than it would have had they not made their videos. However, what good is this without any mention of donations or what ALS is? As shown through UNICEF’s recent poster, it is an unfortunate reality that no difference will be made without funds, and thus awareness alone is worthless.

Although, to many, the Ice Bucket Challenge may have negated its adopted purpose of raising awareness and funds for ALS, it must be acknowledged that so far $53 million has been donated compared to $2.2 million during the same time period last year. While it may be seen to have provided a chance for many to strip down for their fan bases and friends, the difference made by the videos, similar to that of the no makeup selfie campaign, cannot be ignored.

Both campaigns have been criticised for allowing narcissism to be dressed up as charity, and of course it would be brilliant if there was a clear acknowledgement of ALS in every video. However, for those suffering from ALS, a disease which kills half of all sufferers within the first fourteen months after diagnosis, I highly doubt that they would favour the absence of narcissistic videos over the huge funds being raised. It is, inevitably, these funds which will provide the opportunity for the desired research and progress; narcissism is merely a small, unavoidable consequence of modern society.

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