If you have a Facebook account, there’s no doubt you’ve seen plenty of short videos popping up where crazy people are dumping buckets of freezing cold ice water over their heads, and then call out a few friends to do the same. Some of you may know that this is in support of the ALS Association; some may not.
My maternal grandmother died from ALS when I was 11. My mother suffered terribly; as did her 5 siblings. It’s been a long time and the wound for the most part has healed. The disease absolutely swallows its victims whole. Their families are consumed with never-ending grief and holes in their hearts the shape of whoever they lost. The emptiness my mother felt for months after my grandma’s passing was palpable and contagious. We knew the end was coming but we did not know how quickly it would arrive or the force with which the blow would knock us off our feet. And the worst part: there is no known treatment or cure. Which is why we must fight.
This Ice Bucket Challenge is in every sense of the word ‘amazing,’ yet I find myself hesitant about its future success. This challenge as an awareness campaign is knocking it out of the ballpark. Everyone from Mark Zuckerburg to Justin Timberlake have gotten in on it, even if they are doing it just to call out more famous people. I fear that just like many social media phenomena, the apparent altruism is rather an inflated sense of self-importance; people think that by dumping cold water over their head, they are contributing to society. They are not. Those who opt out of the attention-grabbing video and brainfreeze, those who take the alternative path to donate to the ALS Association, are the ones who I admire. Much like #Kony2012 or #BringBackOurGirls, simply posting on social media will not solve any problems. This new trend, dubbed “Hashtag Activism,” is great for awareness but not for action. Instead of posting a video of you flaunting your bikini body, why don’t you simply donate $30? Stop pretending to be selfless and instead put your words to action.
I encourage anyone who hasn’t to research Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) to see how it tears lives apart. If you feel strongly about the need for a cure, I encourage you to donate your time or funds to the cause. If you want to dump freezing water over your head, feel free: do it because it’s fun and silly, and know that it won’t make a difference for ALS.