Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS research: Activism or slacktivism?

Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS research: Activism or slacktivism?
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (R) dumps a bucket of ice water onto Liberal MP Sean Casey for the ALS ice bucket challenge during a break in the Federal Liberal summer caucus meetings in Edmonton August 19, 2014.

If the Internet is an important aspect of your life, then you are no stranger to the latest social media trend: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Whether it be YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, videos of people pouring a bucket full of ice-cold water over their heads and then calling out and tagging their friends to do the same has since spread all over the Net like wildfire. The fad has gained even more popularity as a result of some very public participation of politicians and celebrities. The reason for the self-inflicted torture has been widely announced to be in the name of charity. Like its name suggests, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge calls for public donations to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) foundations. However, after a deeper look, one can argue whether the craze is in the name of activism or in the name of slacktivism.

The argument stems from the various forms of the challenge. Some have said that the challenge calls for participants to pour ice water over themselves in lieu of donating US$100 to charity, while some have said that by partaking in the challenge you pledge to donate US$10 instead of US$100. Either way, the most important question is actually whether such a trend truly brings awareness and aid to ALS patients in the name of activism, or none at all, giving only popularity or publicity to participants in the name of slacktivism.

No matter the intention, the answer seems obvious. The term ALS is not even touched upon by the majority of challenge participants, let alone the names of potential charity foundations. And let's face it, the trend has gained so much popularity because we as humans enjoy watching our friends and loved ones perform acts of voluntary ridiculousness. Seeing such acts conducted by the rich and famous is of course even more appealing, ultimately leading to a video one wants to watch rather than a charity one wants to be a part of. Reportedly, local ALS charities have said that they have yet to receive any donations, even after having their name addressed.

Even when ALS is addressed in challenges by those who truly understand the meaning behind the fad, does it not overshadow the importance of other diseases that require our attention and donations? Asserting too much attention on one subject has always proven to do more harm than good, much like the Internet sensation that was "Kony 2012," in which humanitarian organisation "Invisible Children" called for the general public to help stop African warlord Joseph Kony from creating more child soldiers through pledges and donations. After gaining worldwide popularity and attention, Kony remains at large in Africa while the organisation raked in millions of dollars worldwide.

On a more medical note, the challenge has also been warned by medical experts to cause potential bodily harm. Doctors in Taiwan have reported that challenge participants might be prone to strokes without a proper warm-up or the necessary preparations for the body to experience a drastic temperature drop. Post-challenge precautions are just as important to save the body from going into hyperthermia.

Let's be honest, what sort of awareness does one receive or preach by dumping a bucket of ice over one's head? Brain freeze perhaps?

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