The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Inequality

The ALS Ice bucket challenge is a trend that over the summer took social media by storm. In those months, it raised more funds for the ALS association than any of the members predicted, a raging success story.

I myself participated in the challenge, as did most of my friends. One friend of mine was nominated three times, and though she donated each time, she refused to do the challenge, stating that it was uninformative and detracted from spreading information on the actual disease.

Anthropologist Matt Thompson asserts that, rather than detracting from the spread of information about ALS, the silly video is an extremely successful marketing technique, and that is why it was especially effective in our capitalist society. It this is true, did we only do the video to brag about how much goodwill we have? Is that why the challenge because so successful?

Thompson also asserts that “the issue at the heart of the Ice Bucket Challenge is the way it prioritizes the needs of a relatively exclusive community in a way that has been met with extraordinary public support. ALS is an extremely rare disease and one that disproportionately affects White males. Therefore it is revealing that addressing their needs has become so popular.”

No campaign targeting diseases, say, in Africa, have been met with as much support. This may be due to the fact that there is a much larger population of social-media-users in Europe and North America than in Africa, and therefore ALS hits “closer to home”. This may also be due to the significant privilege that white male human beings experience in the world today. Either way, although ALS is undoubtedly a horrible disease and those studying it do deserve the funds they’ve received from the campaign, there are numerous diseases still rampant in the world that have comparatively caused many more deaths that are being left relatively untreated. Why?

References: “Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge about structural inequality?” by Matt Thompson


One thought on “The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Inequality

  1. I also took part of the ALS ice bucket challenge this summer. Although, I must admit when participating in this activity I never really thought about what it actually meant or whom it was affecting.

    I was unaware that this rare disease affected more men than women. Which makes me wonder if this is one of the reasons why it became such an Internet sensation. Could this be another way of representing male dominance? Having any type disease is terrible but it makes you question if this challenge started and became so viral because it is a disease that is more common in men and would be ultimately be assisting with more male survival. If this were a disease that was more common in women would it still have been as popular? You make a good point about how no campaign about diseases in places such as Africa have been met this much support. I believe that one of those reasons may be their lacking access to technology and social media.

    I also agree with the point that many people participate in the challenge because it may seem inhuman to not participate. It would ultimately make many look unkind individuals to not participate. Many want to keep up the image they are trying to portray online so this may include engaging in the challenge to keep up this image.

    The ALS also goes to show how large of impact social media has in all of our lives. I believe that it is a good marketing technique because so many people are connected to social media and it is easy to post, share, and view videos on social media. However, this depend on having the privilege and access to social media and technology. If one does not have that access to technology and social media does that mean that word won’t be spread about a particular disease in a different parts of the world?

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