Overpouring viral support

By Saher Khan

By now, nearly all of the Internet is familiar with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Various media outlets have inaccurately cited Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player diagnosed with ALS in 2012, as the originator of the viral phenomenon; however, ALS had nothing to do with the Ice Bucket Challenge’s beginnings.

Freezing under a splash of cold water for the sake of charity is not an entirely new concept. The Polar Plunge, an event where participants race into cold lake waters to raise money for charity, is something people have been participating in for years. The Ice Bucket Challenge is just a variation of that original concept. But what made it an Internet sensation?

It had all the right ingredients for going viral. The concept is simple, one person challenges three and those three people accept and challenge another three, etc. Arielle Padres, a writer for VICE, called millennial generation’s involvement with the challenge, “narcissism masked as altruism.” It discussed how Hashtag activism and “slacktivism”, both terms referring to people supporting or raising awareness on a social cause via the Internet with minimal effort, spread this online campaign like wildfire.

But while the Ice Bucket Challenge had its many critics, the fad did in fact raise over $100 million for ALS, according to International Business Times, and inspired other social causes and charities to harness that viral formula to hopefully make a difference elsewhere.

A group of pro athletes started a game of Internet tag early this summer. They challenged one another to dump a bucket of ice on themselves or donate $100 to the charity of their choice. It was coined as the “Ice Bucket challenge”. On June 23, professional motocross rider Jeremy McGrath did the ice bucket challenge, then called out golfer Rickie Fowler to do the same. Fowler called out golfer Keegan Bradley, who kept the chain going by calling out others, and the chain began to spread. Matt Lauer, the host of NBC’s “Today Show,” did the ice bucket challenge on July 13 and donated money to the Hospice of Palm Beach County. 

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Chris Kennedy, a professional golfer in the West Florida’s minor league, was challenged. A relative of Kennedy’s is diagnosed with ALS. Kennedy completed the challenge on July 14 and said he would donate to ALS. Kennedy then challenged his relative, who followed him in donating to the ALS foundation, and the people she nominated followed suit.

The Ice Bucket challenge eventually reached Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player diagnosed with ALS in 2012. Frates did the challenge on July 31 and challenged some friends and celebrities (including NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Ryan) to take the ice bucket challenge to “strike out ALS.” After this, many mistakenly credit Frates as the creator of the challenge.

From Aug. 1 to 29, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral. According to SimilarWeb, the ALSA.org website traffic increased by 7,775 percent after the Ice Bucket Challenge between Aug. 5 and 23. From Aug. 12 to 25, the ALS Association had received $88.5 million dollars in donations.

Ohio University Student Senate President Megan Marzec was challenged to the Ice Bucket Challenge. On Sept. 4, video circulated on the Internet of Marzec dumping a bucket of blood on her head instead of ice water to raise awareness about the number of innocent Palestinian lives lost in the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. Marzec is one of many who have piggybacked off the success of ALS and used the Ice Bucket challenge to raise awareness for various social causes and charities. The Rice Bucket challenge is sweeping India, where people give a bucket of rice to someone in need of food. In West Africa, the Lather Against Ebola Challenge has taken hold and many are dousing themselves with soapy water and handing out three bottles of hand sanitizer to raise awareness about Ebola prevention.

Saher can be reached at [email protected].