Why I Hate the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

It’s stupid. It makes me lose hope in society, and people who are participating in this who think that they are making a change by donating a few dollars, or “spreading the message” by dumping a bucket of ice on their heads need to wise up.

My problem with this is the lack of thought behind the ice bucket trend. An article about “funding cannibalism” by Quartz describes this best – by taking five seconds out of their day to donate, dump ice, or both, people then think that they can pat themselves on the back, and go back to tweeting/facebooking/instagramming about their lives. Group mentality. “Everybody else is doing this, so that must mean it’s legit. Now I can follow the trend, feel like a good person, and go back to my much more important life”. What they don’t take into account is how effective this “popular-at-the-moment” charity is at converting the dollars into concrete action, and if their dollars could’ve been better used if it were donated to a different organization for the same cause, or a different cause entirely. This is where the “funding cannibalism” comes in. Some social scientists conducted an experiment where people were first asked to choose between green lightbulbs and traditional incandescents. Afterwards, they were asked to do a seemingly unrelated task, to pay themselves out of an envelope. The scientists found that the people who had taken the “green” route in the first task tended to lie about how much they paid themselves in the second task, and the incandescent-choosers were more honest in the second round. Somehow, humans are wired to think that an ethical task that seems a little bit out of the norm to do then justifies an unethical one.

I give mad props to the occasional person who goes beyond just this surface-level trend to learn more about the foundation, the disease, and goes on to dedicate his or her time because it’s something that they feel is worth it. As for the people who quote Desmond Tutu and say that taking no action places you in the role of oppressor, I disagree. Who’s to say that ALS, the Kony situation, or cancer is more important than the Israel-Palestine conflict, people living with dirty fracking water, or human trafficking? It’s time to assess what you, as an individual, are passionate about, and in what way you can be most effective to the causes that you care about. It’s great that the ALS foundation has raised about 4 million dollars, more that they ever have in the past, but I will change my mind about the ice bucket trend followers only when I can tangibly see that they have benefited more from this money than any other disease foundation could have.

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