The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: The Impact of Social Media

Jordan Meaker, Center Stage Editor

What does a bucket of freezing cold water and a good cause have in common? If you’ve scrolled through your Facebook or Twitter news feed, you’ll no doubt know the connection, as millions of people around the world are taking part in the summer’s viral video craze known as the Ice-Bucket Challenge. The concept is simple: fill up a bucket of ice-cold water, dump the whole thing over your head, and then challenge friends to do the same in 24 hours (but if you can’t get it done in 24 hours, donate $100).  However, millions of people are not just emptying buckets over their heads for the fun of it. The act is meant to bring attention to the degenerative disease called ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Ice-Bucket Challenge has garnered millions of dollars for ALS research, and the campaign is still going strong. While watching your friends get soaked is always a good time, it’s also important to know what ALS and ALS research is really all about.

ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a degenerative disease that targets the nerves in the brain and spine. Little was known about the disease until it was brought into the limelight when famous baseball player Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with it. The disease causes the motor neurons to waste away and die, causing increasing lack of muscle control. A patient diagnosed with ALS would eventually stop being able to breathe on their own, which leads to their death.  There is no cure or reversal method for ALS, but with the millions of dollars being brought in by the Ice-Bucket Challenge, researchers may be able quickly advance their search for a cure.

According to the ALS Association website, “[The ALS Association] has received $115 million in donations compared to $1.9 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 19).” Not only have they gained a staggering amount of money, they’ve also gained something that might even be more precious than that: awareness. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lopez, and Taylor Swift participated in the frozen foray, bringing the issue to light for their fans and most likely donating large sums of money as well. Our own school has gotten in on the craze: administrators Dr. Davison, Coach Bass, and Coach Ferrer took the challenge with the band supporting them. Our band was challenged by South Forsyth High, and they raised money at lunchtime for the cause. As the chain of people participating in the challenge and nominating others grows, so does the support for ALS patients.

The ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge is a testament to the power that social media has and its ability to make a small cause known worldwide. The impressive success of the campaign may ensure that other charities will take the same route to awareness, and we can help so many more people. When you’re dumping your own freezing bucket over your head, think of the people that you’re helping out, and don’t forget to donate too!