Do you remember the “Ice Bucket Challenge” where people dumb an icy water bucket over their heads to solicit donations before nominating others to do the same?
Back in 2014, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” was a huge success in raising social awareness and funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS, a neurological disorder. “Ice Bucket Challenge” went viral on the Internet with thousands of videos, lots of celebrity such as Anna Wintour, Mark Zuckerberg, Rita Ora… also made the videos. Just like other social activism activities, “Ice Bucket Challenge” received both supports and dismissal.
(Mark Zuckerberg doing the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, via gnovisjournal)
People who dismissed claimed this campaign has no connection to the real world and associated it with “slacktivism”. Others said the way people dumped buckets of ice over one’s head to post the videos on Facebook seemed too silly.
Despite all the slacktivism claims, “Ice Bucket Challenge” campaign raised over $100 million dollars to the ALS Association within 30 days and from that fundraising, the researchers have discovered a new gene associated with ALS diseases, thus shed lights for possible treatments.
I used “Ice Bucket Challenge” as an example of social activism several times in my classroom. I had my students analyzed this viral campaign and we were able to list some of the factors that made “Ice Bucket Challenge” meaningful and worthwhile.
Firstly, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” had a clear and simple goal. I and my students think that having a clear and simple goal is a really important factor for an online social activism to succeed. The “Ice Bucket Challenge’s goal was to raise funds for ALS research and ALS’s victims, very simple and clear. People want something easy to understand, a long-written post about the goal of an online social activism would not create large involvement from Internet citizens since people don’t have much time to read.
Secondly, the entertaining nature of “Ice Bucket Challenge” created a weave on the Internet at that time because people enjoyed watching their friends, their family members and the celebrities they admire dumb an icy water bucket over their heads.
I also noted to my students that when they participate in such viral campaign, they should not try to do too much to entertain people but they should always focus on the main purposes of the campaign. Students need to be clear whether they just want personal attention or they really want to raise awareness when participating in online social campaigns. For example, I didn’t support people who wore too revealing clothes and had others dumb ice buckets over their heads just to get sexy, get personal attention but didn’t even mention the name and purpose of the Ice Bucket Challenge in their videos.
In general, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of how online social activism can create a better society. For students, when participating in any online social campaign, they shouldn’t do it just to get personal attention, get more “likes”, get more “followers”, rather they need to help deliver the authentic messages of the campaign. By this way, online social activism will become meaningful and worthwhile.