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