One morning, I logged into Facebook to find that every single one of my 366 friends (I prefer to think of them as associates but indiscriminate Facebook labels are an incurable malady that I must tolerate) seemed to have been overwhelmed by a sudden, incomprehensible urge to fill buckets with ice and then dump the said contents of the aforementioned bucket on their respective heads, while on videotape.
My first reaction was one of intense joy. I believe they call this schadenfreude. I had no idea what had happened overnight, but it seemed as if some higher power had mass convinced humanity to pay for its sins and general idiocy by dousing itself in frigid water. Maybe it was payback for global warming, or some ploy for mass baptism. I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. It was immensely gratifying, which was all that mattered.
But then immediately, I had second thoughts. Was I supposed to be doing this too? Did I miss the brief? Owing to my tendency to correct people who call themselves my friends (“Actually, you’re more of an acquaintance”), I’m always the last person to be informed of these things. Maybe this was what the in-crowd was doing nowadays. Being a conformist is something I pride myself on (we’re a minority in the population), and for a moment there, I almost began to look for ice with which to redeem myself in the eyes of my Facebook . . . confrères.
And then I came to my senses and started to unfriend everyone who had chosen to renounce the general sensibilities afforded to the human race and embrace the slightly-deranged-polar-bear lifestyle instead.
That’s when I noticed the hashtag linked to one of the videos – it read: #alsicebucketchallenge.
As a general rule, I avoid hashtags like the plague. They’re a ridiculous excuse for stringing together words of sentences that would normally be separated by spaces. The only way I’d use them would be if I were being ironic, if I absolutely needed it to prefix a number or if my mother made me, which seems quite unlikely. But this particular one I noticed, mainly because I didn’t know what ‘als’ meant. And also because Ice Bucket Challenge seemed like the most uninventive name for anything since the television show Friends.
What followed was a journey of discovery. ALS stood for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a neurodegenerative disorder with no cure. Two friends, one of them with this very disease, had begun the social media phenomenon hoping to raise awareness and consequently funding for research. Apparently, you either do the challenge and donate ten dollars, or don’t do it, and donate one hundred dollars. Unfortunately a lot of my Facebook acquaintances perceived themselves as having two different options entirely: either “I’ll do the challenge and show everyone that I have swag, yo!” or “I won’t do the challenge because it wastes water and the water from my shower is a precious resource that must be conserved for the poor dehydrated children in Africa.”
I realize that I sound heavily critical of both approaches. In fact, I’m critical of neither. I realize that I can’t really expect romping teenagers to let go of a valuable opportunity to display their machismo/ bravado. I also realize that there will be champagne environmentalists (I think I’m one of them). Unfortunately, the same people, more often than not, don’t donate either, but I think that’s okay too. Donation should be a choice, not an imposition.
Overall, however, the Ice Bucket Challenge, stupid and annoying as it may seem, has succeeded in raising vast amounts of funds, mainly due to donations by celebrities. Charlie Sheen, in keeping with his usual display of extravagance, did the challenge with a bucket of money instead ($10,000 to be precise). Some of my Facebook friends took a cue from Charlie Sheen and went all out, doing the challenge with…books. And videogames. And swimming pool water. And tennis balls. And anything else that was remotely tangible and could be dumped on a head. The #alsicebucketchallenge became the #alsmiscellaneousparaphernaliabucketchallenge.
But it didn’t matter, because the challenge raised $41 million for ALS research. And despite the fact that my Facebook page is being spammed with thousands of videos of <insert judgemental label>s soaking themselves and then engaging in long soliloquys of self-appreciation, it’s a good thing.
Oh, and it’s pretty darn hilarious.
I have some free time, so I think I’m going to go watch some more of those videos now.
[If you want to donate – and no one’s forcing you to, it’s your choice entirely – visit http://www.alsa.org/]