BY EMILY CHAIET
What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? Most of you can probably find the answer on your Facebook feed.
Throughout the past few months, it’s been impossible to go on social media without seeing “ALS ice bucket challenge” pop up. But let me ask you a question: why are you pouring a bucket of ice on yourself?
Most of us are capable of dousing ice-cold water on ourselves for the world to see, yet I bet only a fraction of us can say what ALS is and what purpose the ice bucket challenge serves for those affected by it.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Due to the degeneration of motor neurons, ALS often results in death. The life expectancy of an ALS patient is two to five years from the time of diagnosis. Only 30,000 people in the US have ALS, and there is no cure for the disease thus far.
Unlike those who roll their eyes every time they see another ice bucket challenge pop up on their Instagram feed, I feel joy seeing such a little known disease getting attention. Since the ice bucket challenge began, the ALS Association has received $15.6 million in donations compared to $1.8 million in donations it received last year. The only thing I roll my eyes at is how little people will care about the disease once their video is posted.
The problem with the ice bucket challenge is it has become such a pop culture phenomenon that people are forgetting why it began in the first place. If people are not aware of the importance of ALS research, and the impact the challenge has had, the ice bucket challenge is in danger of becoming just another fad that will be buried into the depths of social media in a matter of months.
Why do I say this? Let me take you back to a time when everybody wore “I Love Boobies” bracelets to support breast cancer. How many people still wear those bracelets today? While those bracelets stood for an excellent cause in breast cancer awareness and gave attention to a life-threatening illness, most people bought them for the comical phrase written or to blend in with their friends. The bracelets, which were made to promote breast cancer, became a fashion trend rather than a charitable donation.
The ALS ice bucket challenge is on the path to a similar fate as the “I Love Boobies” bracelets. Due to people’s ignorance, participants have no care to keep the trends going. When such great causes are getting attention, we cannot let them turn into fads.
This is the first time the ALS community has received so much attention, and it would be a shame to see the ice bucket challenge become just another forgotten hashtag on social media. Instead of caring how many likes we get on our ice bucket challenge videos, we should care about how much the challenge has helped ALS research.