Buck-eting a trend

It began with a bucket, and then another bucket, and another one, and so on.

There were buckets filled with ice water, and they were being dumped on people’s heads. What could this be? Is this a cult initiation? Is this a new political movement (If you can have a Tea Party you can certainly have an Iced Water party, am I right?).

On the heels of the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man on the face of the Earth” speech to announce his retirement, a challenge was launched , whereby one individual, either alone or with the help of another individual, would donate money to charity, or face the indignity of getting doused in ice water. Fortunately most did both. That person would then challenge 3 more people to do the same. What began as a silly frat boy prank emerged onto social media as a worldwide phenomenon, with celebrities, sports figures, and politicians racing to find the nearest bucket of ice water to dump on themselves in the name of raising money for charity.

But wait, what’s this, A protest? Groups of people denouncing this challenge as a waste of time and water.  Why can’t you just give money? Why do you have to waste water while promoting how silly you look soaking wet? Why does this have to be about self-promotion?

A valid point, I will say – there are easier and less messy ways of donating to charity. There are walks, runs, obstacle courses, and car washes to be a part of,  So why this, why does a bucket challenge become the new fad for donating to charity?

Well here’s your answer, or at least my answer. The Ice Bucket challenge is a byproduct of the era of people being consumed by mobile technology and the ability to capture moving images and share them instantaneously. The Ice Bucket challenge would not be what it is if it weren’t so easy to record yourself doing something silly and then have the ability to share it with the world at the touch of a screen. When I hear people say, “I bet most of these people don’t even know what ALS is” I say, that’s true, but at least they’re participating, and that’s more than they were doing before.

The reason this challenge has been so successful is that it grabbed us where we are, which is, according to Tosh.O, at home making entertaining videos of ourselves in the name of self-promotion. You then add the possibility of stunts gone wrong, (think Jackass), with the end result being a charitable donation (think Jerry Lewis’s MDA Telethon), and voila, you have the modern day community event/charity drive. Everyone feels like they’re part of a movement, and they’re having fun while doing.  No more phone banks, no more celebrities waiting to take your donation, just think of a stunt that puts people in various stages of agony, get some famous people to take part, and let social media do the rest. Should this be what it takes to get people to give to charity? Probably not, it SHOULD take the feeling of satisfaction knowing you’ve done a good deed – but as I’m sure the people who have been affected by ALS will tell you, sometimes getting people to support causes takes a bit more than that – and this is a great example.

While I understand those who feel that dumping a bucket of water on your head is a waste of resources and does nothing to find a cure for ALS, it did do something important: It found people where they were: at home with their friends making videos on their cell phones, and to quote Willie Sutton “that’s where the money is.’ So props to the ALS Foundation for finding a truly innovative way to raise money, and props to those who may be avoiding the buckets, but giving their time and money instead. Let’s hope this is the start of something bigger than people dumping ice water on their heads.

Also, if you’re truly concerned about wasting natural resources, there’s always this route:

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