Pros & Cons: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket challenge gained popularity this summer on social media. The debate below addresses the effectiveness of this challenge in terms of its ability to raise awareness and donations for the condition.


As I scrolled through my newsfeed, instead of the usual cute animal photos, I noticed that every other post was a video of someone pouring cold water on themselves.

To an outsider, this may seem strange. Why are people dumping ice water on their heads, and why are they challenging their friends to do the same? However, most people participating in the ice bucket trend are trying to raise awareness and money for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

ALS is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. The disease may eventually be fatal. Although this social media fad has indeed raised a lot of awareness, funds, and support for a worthy cause, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge surfaces the question: why would people rather do something unpleasant to themselves, such as dump ice water on their heads, than donate to charity?

Someone nominated for the ALS ice bucket challenge is given 24 hours to decide: fill up a bucket of water and dump it themselves or donate to charity. The Ice Bucket challenge has raised over $100 million dollars, and in the United Kingdom alone, an estimated one out of every six people have participated in the challenge, yet only 10 percent of the population actually donated. Many people find that it is easier to go through the few seconds of discomfort over actually donating money to the cause. People are throwing water on themselves and not donating money; how is this helping those who suffer from this disease?

Similar to the former movement Kony 2012, a campaign to spread awareness of African militia leader, another cause will sweep in and grasp the attention of our society since social media trends are constantly evolving. The popular thing to do today will not necessarily be true for next month. The sad truth is in a year people will say: “Remember when everyone was pouring ice water on themselves for ALS?”

While the challenge has brought in funds and awareness to a worthy cause, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is temporary. Next time you find yourself tagged in another Ice Bucket video, before you bring out the ice cubes and buckets, consider whether or not your video is really doing a good deed for this charity, or if you’re just doing this because everybody else on social media is?


On some July day, you were most likely scrolling through Facebook when you came across a video of your friend pouring ice water over her head. At the time, you probably gave the stunt little thought—but the following week, you noticed more people replicating the same video. Then one day, you receive a notification that invites you to join the trend known as the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket Challenge.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was first introduced by ALS patient Pete Frates in hopes of raising awareness for the condition. With the help of social media, it has become a viral trend. For a number of people, ALS was first brought to their attention by the circulation of the challenge on Facebook. Within its first month, the campaign raised $90 million.

While many praise the success of the online movement, the campaign also has its critics who argue that participants are motivated by their desire for attention rather than a drive to help charity. Despite those who argue against it, the Ice Bucket Challenge has gone beyond boosting the funding for ALS research; it has elicited a global response for a good cause.

Undoubtedly, some people took advantage of the trend as a way to gain self-recognition, but that does not dismiss the fact that plenty of people accepted the challenge on behalf of ALS research. The plan for the Ice Bucket Challenge was to raise awareness and generate funding, and that is what the challenge has accomplished.

As of now, over three million people have completed the challenge, including celebrities Dave Franco and Oprah Winfrey. In addition, the ALS Association reported that donations have exceeded $100 million—a 3,500 percent increase from the $3 million raised by the same time last year. The association is planning to use this money to fund research projects and find treatment for a disease that, on average, takes the life of its victims within two to five years of diagnosis.

Though we should acknowledge the dishonest intentions of certain participants, we have no right to be criticizing the entirety of the Ice Bucket Challenge as it has greatly exceeded expectations in donations and awareness. We need to instead focus on the positive impact produced by a campaign that is tailored to the attention of a world governed by technology and social media.