For those who have suffered with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, the past years have been ones of little awareness and limited public knowledge about the illness. At one point most of the public only knew the disease as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for a famous baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in the late 1930s. However, with young people eager to spread the word, social media has been converted into a catalyst for the ALS cause via the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
It’s difficult to distinguish the exact origins of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but whoever started the challenge is responsible for one of the largest charitable social media efforts to date. The rules of the challenge are that one must pour freezing, ice filled water over their head and/or donate money the ALS Association (ALSA). After partaking in the challenge, the participant will nominate others to contribute to the cause. Those nominees will then have 24 hours to complete the same task. This challenge has brought necessary funds for research along with putting the topic of ALS at the forefront of public attention, which was previously a rarity for illnesses affecting smaller portions of the population.
Despite all of these positive effects, this challenge still does not fully succeed in educating the masses on ALS. In a recent video of the challenge, a 26 year old male, who had just been diagnosed with ALS, expounds upon the disease and the strife it has caused. This video really reminds you of how terrifying the disease actually is for those who experience ALS. The posts on Facebook and Instagram from your friends seem to leave out those harrowing details; they seem to help the cause while protecting their viewers from the chilling truth of ALS.
I was actually talking to one of the kids I babysit after I’d helped her record her challenge video, and she had no idea that the cold water is meant to represent how victims of ALS experience muscle weakness and atrophy. The circulation of these videos have taught the public that ALS is a worthy cause without telling them anything about the disease. Another video that caught my eye was the challenge taped by Charlie Sheen. Instead of pouring cold water over himself, he emptied a bucket of thousands of dollars on his head and explained how he was donating all of that cash to the ALS Association. He also proceeded to chastise those who only dumped water over themselves, which I thought was a little much, but I understand where he is coming from in this situation. Yes, the videos brought attention to ALS, but it has reached a point where some seem to do the challenge in exchange for likes on social media or to poke fun at a friend because they will have to get wet.
What I believe about this whole situation is that the challenge started out as a great idea but has spiraled into something different. The videos were intended to bring awareness, but without illuminating the issues of ALS in the video not much is being taught. Contributing to the challenge is still an awesome way to help with ALS awareness, but don’t forget to mention some of the effects of ALS or even encourage your friends to donate for research.