If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve seen a few of your friends (and a lot of strangers) get buckets of ice water dumped over their heads recently, all in the name of ALS. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – is a progressive degenerative neurological disorder. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “How does dumping ice water over your head help ALS?” I found myself asking the same question. Here’s my conclusion…
It doesn’t. Well, not to its full potential anyway. [Disclaimer: I’m aware that this challenge has brought a large sum of donations and awareness to ALS. The last sentence “Not to its full potential” is very important here. This is about how to make every video matter as much as the ones that are working, not to argue that none of them have.]
Don’t get me wrong – I admire the effort and applaud those who have taken on the challenge. There’s a reason why we don’t all just run around pouring ice water over our heads every day. Being cold sucks. So, if you were one of the thousands of people who put your own comfort below the hope of raising awareness for an incurable disease, kudos to you! That’s rad.
Here’s the problem, though: Most people still don’t know what ALS is. Most people aren’t watching it because they want to learn about ALS, they’re watching it because they want to see someone get doused in ice cold water. So it’s important to teach your audience about ALS, no matter what they’re viewing for. The trouble is, most of the people making the videos aren’t really focusing on ALS much. In fact, many of them don’t mention it at all (except in the title or description of their video), or if they do mention it on camera, they say something like, “This is for ALS,” and then proceed to talk about who challenged them and who they, in turn, are challenging.
Now, if you’re just in it for the ice bath, let’s be real here – you probably don’t give a shit about who challenged them or who they’re challenging, and you probably aren’t going to take the time to Google ALS and find out what it’s all about. You’ll watch. You’ll laugh. You’ll move on. I hate to be a wet blanket (no pun intended), but that’s not helping anybody.
The fundamental issue with this challenge is that if you do it, you aren’t expected to donate (or, depending on where you’re getting your rules from, you donate a much smaller amount, like $10). This blog is geared toward those who are doing the ice bucket challenge in lieu of a donation. Can’t afford to donate? That’s fine, but make your video matter. Here’s how it goes: A person is challenged to dump ice water over their head or they “have to” donate $100 to the ALS charity of their choice. Think about this rationally for a second. Do you really think that most people would rather lose $100 than dump ice cold water over their heads? OF COURSE NOT. But, most people don’t want to do either, and so they won’t. That’s free will, baby.
Then, what’s the point, right? Well, it is helping to raise lots of funds for a great cause, but the level of awareness of what ALS is and how people can help could certainly use improvement. These videos are going viral, after all. So, if you’re planning on participating in the ice bucket challenge, it’s important that you teach your viewers about ALS. Here are a few ways that you can really do it right:
- Explain ALS. There’s no point in raising awareness for an acronym, so dig deeper than that. Tell your audience what it is! Knowing that ALS is a thing, but knowing nothing about it except that it got a bunch of YouTubers to dump ice cold water on their heads is not awareness. Knowing how it affects those who suffer from it and what you can do to help is.
- Provide links. These videos are going viral. Do more than just talk about ALS in your video. List links to a few of your favorite ALS-related organizations and charities in the description of your video. Encourage people to donate, even if it’s just $1. If your video went viral and every single person who watched it donated $1, it would make a huge difference.
- Donate. What’s better than raising awareness about ALS? Donating to organizations that support ALS sufferers and are working towards a cure. Again, even if it’s just a dollar. Do both. Or take the money that you would have used on ice and donate it, then film yourself explaining why.
So what is ALS? I’m glad you asked. ALS is a rare disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Over time, the motor neurons that reach from the brain to the spine and from the spine to the muscles deteriorate, resulting in muscle weakness; trouble speaking, eating, or breathing; muscular atrophy; diminished muscle control; paralyzation; and eventually, death. Its cause is unknown and although there is currently no cure for ALS, there are medications that can significantly slow its progress.
If you’re interested in helping – ice bucket or no ice bucket – consider making a donation. Your donations will be used to provide local support and services to ALS sufferers, aid global research to find a cure, and raise awareness. For a list of charities to donate to or volunteer for, check out this great list on Network for Good.