Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why I did the ice bucket challenge

There are a lot of people out there dissing the ice bucket challenge, and with good reason too. 'Waste of water' is a common cry, as is 'fad/latest Internet sensation'; they are also dubious as to the purity of participants' motives, claiming that participants don't give two hoots about ALS* and are only doing it for the attention. While I agree that they have a point, I do have something to say.

I did the ice bucket challenge. I was nominated by a friend who did the challenge, donated, and passed the challenge on. Her instruction to her nominees was to do it within 24 hours or donate $100 to an ALS foundation of their choice, and so I donated to the MND** Research Institute of Australia (I couldn't find one for Malaysia) in addition to doing the challenge. My instruction to my own nominees was to donate to a charity organisation of their choice if they didn't complete the challenge in 48 hours. I changed it slightly from my nominator's because I felt 24 hours was too short notice and I didn't want to be telling people how much they should be donating (the story of the widow and her two coins comes to mind).

Initially, I thought the ice bucket challenge was silly. I do still think it's silly, but I'm aware that it wouldn't have gotten the publicity it did if it wasn't. I guess what made me warm up to it (pun not intended) was the realisation that, really, nothing bad is coming out of the idea: you pour a bucket of ice water over yourself as entertainment, then challenge other people to do it and/or donate. My favourite way of looking at it is that it's peer pressuring people to make donations, which, in all honesty, is great.

Donating money is a funny thing. I believe it's a great thing to do, but then you have all these people questioning your intentions. Do you even know what ALS is? You're only doing it because you were tagged. If it wasn't for this challenge, you'd never be donating to them. All these things are true, and that's the best part about the ice bucket challenge! I had a sort of vague idea as to what ALS was prior to the fad ("That's the Stephen Hawking one, right?"), but I definitely know what it is now. Yes, I only donated because I was nominated and made aware of this condition, because how could I possibly donate to a foundation I didn't know existed in support of a condition I barely knew about?

There are people who are refusing to participate or donate. Their reasoning? Well, what about all the OTHER foundations for all those OTHER diseases and conditions? It's not fair that you're not donating to them as well. What's so special about ALS foundations, anyway? This ice bucket challenge is stupid and I want no part of it. This angers me, not least because it's such a cop-out excuse. You're acknowledging the great need there is out there and yet refuse to make the smallest contribution? Isn't that a little counter-productive? Also, you don't have to donate to an ALS foundation. I did because I was instructed to by my nominator, but the trend now is moving towards any charity organisation (which I feel should be the case -- donators should have the right to choose where their donation goes).

My favourite gripe of the naysayers: People are only doing this for the attention. My reply to this is twofold: 1. Does it matter, as long as they donate and good gets done in the end? 2. Their drawing attention to themselves draws attention to ALS in the process -- it's a win-win situation!

So, to wrap things up, I did the ice bucket challenge because I believe it was for a good cause and I wanted to contribute in what little way I could. The point of this whole thing isn't the ice or the bucket -- it's the donations and awareness. Going by that, I think this Internet sensation -- which, you have to admit, is one of the better ones out there -- has fulfilled its purpose nicely and has been a resounding success. If you have been nominated, please don't feel like you have to attempt to give yourself hypothermia (if you're in the southern hemisphere, anyway), but if you can, please donate to whatever cause you see fit. Let's put peer pressure and Internet sensationalism to good use for the first time, like, ever.

*ALS = amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
**MND = motor neurone disease (same thing)

Just a few last quick things!

This is an important video. Start watching at 1:58 if you want to skip the dumb stuff.

Overview of ALS: http://www.alsa.org/about-als/what-is-als.html
More in-depth reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amyotrophic_lateral_sclerosis

P.S. (Edited 28th August) If you think the ice bucket challenge is beneath you, you need to get off your high horse and look around you. Bill Gates did it. Oprah did it. And today, our unit coordinator and lecturer Dr. Judi Errey did it. If you think you're better than all or any of these people, you're probably horribly wrong.


  1. Excellent opinion. I've been holding off my challenge for a while now, even though I already donated. This piece seems like a worthy reason to apply in people's intense dislike of the ALS ice bucket challenge.

    1. The best part about doing the challenge is getting to nominate (peer pressure) others to do it. Why hold off? (;