Doing Good: Is the ALS Icebucket Challenge truly good?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Doing Good

Muppets Kermit the Frog takes the ALS Ice Bucket challengeNOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Please welcome back guest writer Gayle Campbell. I’ll tell you more about Gayle at the close of today’s column. Here is the first of her five parts on “Doing Good” …

By now, you’ve certainly seen it exploding across your social media feeds: Friends, dumping buckets of ice water on their heads, and challenging their friends to do the same. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a social campaign designed to raise awareness and funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gerhig’s disease), a fatal neurodegenerative disease.

Celebrities from former President George W. Bush to Bill Gates to Lady Gaga have all partaken in the challenge, which has brought in over $53 million in donations for the ALS Foundation, compared to $2.2 million they raised in the same time period last year.

The marketing seems brilliant: Succumb to peer pressure to prove your altruism, or face judgment from your peers.

And it’s clearly working: Facebook announced last week that more than 28 million users were talking about the challenge and 2.4 million Ice Bucket Challenge videos were shared on Facebook between June 1 and August 17.

But it’s this same logic that’s caused the campaign to be criticized by some as “Slacktivism”—online engagement that requires very little time, effort or money, offering participants the satisfaction of doing good without actually making much of an impact. One blogger even argues that participation in a feel-good cause like the Ice Bucket Challenge might lead one to compensate by doing fewer good actions in the future, an effect known as moral self-licensing.

Criticism aside, it’s hard to argue with the over 2,000% increase in donations to the ALS Association, which will be used to fund global research for treatment and a cure for the disease that affects approximately 30,000 Americans.

What do you think? We want to hear from you!

Have you participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge? If so, what motivated you to get on board?
If you’ve avoided the campaign, why?
Do you think the challenge promotes activism, or “slactivism”?

COME ON …
WATCH A FEW MORE COOL VIDEOS

KERMIT FACES THE DELUGE …

TINA FEY RESPONDS …

AND ONE FROM THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND …

PLEASE TELL FRIENDS …

You know what to do! Use those blue-“f” Facebook icons and other social-media buttons to invite friends to read along with you this week!

CARE TO READ MORE FROM GAYLE CAMPBELL?

Long-time readers of OurValues may recall that Gayle Campbell once was Media Director of our online project. A University of Michigan grad, today, she’s a professional communicator in Washington D.C., working in the fields of international development and exchange. Gayle occasionally returns to write on millennial matters, social justice issues and doing good. Click here to enjoy her earlier columns in OurValues. (If you click here, you’ll see today’s column at the top of the new page, but you can then scroll down to read 10 more).

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Comments

  1. Bob Bruttell says

    Yes they raised a lot of money for ALS with that viral scheme. And when you raise that kind of money for a worthy cause maybe nothing else does matter. In my role as the president of a non-profit organization, I must ask people for money. I ask people I know with whom I think I share values that coincide with our mission. That approach involves a little coercion since I am asking. However, it is very low pressure. On the other hand, I think the ethics of making someone feel guilty for not keeping the chain going are suspect. And it will appear as just what it is: a gimmick, to those who take the charitable distribution of their limited resources very seriously. If I had sent the Ice Bucket Challenge to 3 of my friends I would not be surprised if two of them said “C’mon Bob. What are you trying to pull?” When I did not continue the chain as my brother challenged me to do, it was in fact awkward.