By Victoria NeelyCOLUMNIST
An Internet sensation known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge made a huge splash all over social media websites this summer. Rather than seeing videos of dancing cats or laughing babies all over your news feeds, you were subjected to videos of people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads.
What started as a playful challenge between friends soon became a huge hit, getting picked up by celebrities such as Charlie Sheen, Oprah and George W. Bush. The viral challenge targeted millions of people in a phenomenal example of how social media can serve for a higher purpose.
Critics of the challenge have made the valid point that some people do the challenge simply because they were nominated by a friend, just to get out of donating to the cause. However, every time people shared video of themselves doing the challenge, no matter their motive, awareness of the disease increased.
To date, the ALS Association has received $109.8 million in donations, and the figure continues to rise. So while critics may stand aside, refuse to do the challenge and scoff at the dozens of videos that have infiltrated their social media, numbers speak for themselves. But more important than money, what was raised was awareness.
Before the ice bucket came about, I will admit I had never heard of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I am sure that was also the case for some of you. ALS, for those who don’t know, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that takes away patients’ abilities to walk, talk, eat and move on their own, eventually leading to death. Approximately 5,600 people in the US are diagnosed with this disease every year, and as it stands, there is no cure. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Skeptics ask that if there can be such a large wave of publicity for a disease that only affects an estimated 30,000 people at any given time, why isn’t there a challenge for cancer patients? For Parkinson’s? Alzheimer’s?
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge should be only the beginning. There should be a challenge – ideally one that does not waste water; as California experienced one of the harshest droughts in history, people rushed to fill and dump buckets of water. The challenges should raise awareness for other horrific diseases and circumstances that thousands of people suffer from all over the world. There should be a challenge for Autism, HIV and even one to support causes like providing clean drinking water in developing countries.
We have now seen the power of our usually pointless social media websites and viral videos. We have now seen what a difference it can make to pour ice water over your head and post it online.
The world is waiting for more great things from our rising generation of tech savvy, conscientious individuals. It’s time for us to close the video of the dancing cat and educate ourselves.
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