'Ice Bucket Challenge' causes ALS donations to soar
'There's (an) element of self-aggrandizement and attention seeking,' professor says
As the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge storms through social media, so have its critics, many who have taken to the same social media platforms that created the viral charity challenge.
But is it activism or is it slacktivism?
Alex Sévigny, the director of McMaster University's master of communications management program, says it’s cynical to dismiss the viral video campaign as slactivisim — a token effort, usually online, that doesn't really result in any change.
"People are doing this in good faith, and although there's (an) element of self-aggrandizement and attention seeking, they are still identifying with the ALS cause in many cases," Sévigny told the CBC.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is the fatal neurodegenerative disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The ice bucket challenge began as an idea to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, or donate $100 to ALS research, and challenge three more to complete the task or donate within 24 hours.
Videos of completed challenges from celebrities, CEOs and regular people have dominated social media feeds, prompting criticism and comparisons to the "Kony2012" viral video campaign. But the results are staggering — in the US, the ALS Association reported on Monday they have received $15.6 million (USD) in donations from more than 300,000 new donors.
It was an eight-fold spike in donations from last year's fund raising efforts.
"There's a different kind of activism for every kind of channel…If you agree with Marshall McLuhan that the medium is the message, then on social media, a lot of what you can do is build a brand around something, create a community by exchanging stories, funny moments, sad moments," Sévigny said. "So when people are joyfully participating in mass culture phenomenon, which makes them feel akin to celebs and CEOs. It brings them into that community"
As for the token tag, Sévigny says it's a cynical view.
"If you think about it, this challenge is more than just tweeting something with a hashtag (e.g. Kony2012). These folks are actually performing a real world behaviour. Going to the effort of filming, coordinating with friends involved, and even watching these videos takes an effort, especially videos made by ordinary folks and shared among their friends, family," Sévigny said.
"So at all stages there's an intentional act (to help)."