Cold Shower: Ice Bucket Challenge

Aug 22 2014, 02:07 IST
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SummaryFun begets charity: Donations pour in for ALS awareness as social media popularises stunt

Would you dump a bucket of ice-cold water on your head for a charitable cause? Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and CEO Satya Nadella, Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin and Amazon chief Jeff Bezos have already done so. As have talk show host Oprah Winfrey, footballers Neymar and Christiano Ronaldo, music superstars Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, and most of the Kennedys. Indian celebs have not been far behind, with tennis star Sania Mirza doing it twice. The stunt, called the Ice Bucket Challenge, was first executed in the last week of July and is intended to raise money and awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative condition that causes patients to lose muscle control. You either donate $100 or pour that bucket of ice on your head, or do both—as most of those mentioned here have chosen to do. Film this or take a picture and post it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al. And then challenge anyone you know, or have heard of, to do the same within 24 hours. US President Barack Obama was “nominated” by Ethel Kennedy of the Kennedy clan, but he declined, choosing instead to donate a significant amount to ALS Association, the organisation now spearheading the charity drive.

All along, social media has remained the most powerful driver of the campaign. The challenge has gone viral, given 1.2 million videos of people taking the Ice Bucket Challenge have been shared on Facebook while it has been mentioned 2.2 million times on Twitter since July 29. And as of August 17, ALS Association had received $13.3 million in donations since July 29 as opposed to $1.7 million during the same period last year when, of course, the challenge didn’t exist. What worked? Perhaps the fact that the campaign relied on fun to mobilise donations instead of say, appealing to sympathy or virtue. Also, given the social media audience is so massive, there is also a pressure at work—to either donate or take the challenge—for those nominated.

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