The Impact of the Internet: ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge

icebuget challenge

Please donate to: http://www.alsa.org/donate/

The ALS ice bucket challenge has made $100 million for research into ALS  which is 3500% more in donations than this time last year. I can’t help but be overwhelmed with the response and generosity of the world population. It’s such a great example of how the internet can bring people all around the world together to help the needy.

The question came to mind; why have we felt the need to give or partake in the challenge?

I can’t help but look back and see the insensitivity in my post so far. People are giving to a good cause, what’s the harm in that? My motives aren’t to detract from the good cause and also our generous behaviour and the good this money will do for ALS research.

What interests me is why so many get caught up in an internet phenomenon which, in turn, leads to people giving to a charity. How many of the people that took part in the ice bucket challenge had actually heard of ALS previously and given to that cause? Was our motivation for the ice bucket challenge about giving to ALS and promoting the charity or about partaking in the event, essentially emulating our friends, celebrities and peers.

In essence, what was it about the act of pouring cold water over ourselves, for many of us to give to the ALS charity?

When the ice bucket challenge was first announced I got asked by many of my friends, ‘I’ve done it, when will you?’ It seems that many of us felt compelled to take part in the challenge in order to feel an affinity with other ice bucket challengers; to show how giving we are and essentially to relieve any pressure thrust onto us by society.

To put it into perspective Obama didn’t do the challenge but gave his money to the cause. Does he usually give to the cause or was he also giving to relive that pressure of society?

This reminds me of being a child and needing to keep up with others in the school playground, having the latest flashing trainers as a child or Nike air maxes when I was a teenager. More than that though the ‘coolest’ kids had the imports that no one else did. We’re essentially stamping our individuality onto an item that many others wanted or had. Notice the emphasis is not creating but gaining, emulating, adding and sharing what others have or created; putting our own unique spin on an item in order to gain admiration.

The pioneer of focus groups (Ernest ditcher) tried to work out how to sell instant cake mix to housewives in 1960’s America. The answer he found was to make them add an egg to the mix. By asking the woman to add their own piece to the mixture it gave them a sense of individuality (they are a part of the process it isn’t all up to the mix) and validation.

The internet has broadened our social circle. Through using the internet the world is our virtual and emotional playground. We can now show not only what we have, but our own personal take on what we and others have done via social media – which was not available to many of us generations ago. It is allowing us the same praise as the housewife adding an egg to the cake mix to the admiration of her family but on a global scale.

Returning back the ice bucket challenge it seems that by partaking in the exercise we are adding to our list of things we’ve done whilst sharing in the admirations of its creators and feeling closer to others who have taken up the challenge. It seems then the emphasis has gone off what we have or have created but more so the experiences we undertake and the activities we have partaken in, and ‘improved’ upon. (Such as adding an egg to the cake mix in the 1960s)

To return back to my previous post (blurring  the lines) no wonder many of us gain more validation from sharing what food we are eating than tasting it in all its spender. Our validation has changed from physical experiencing to experiences through praises, predominately, virtual interactions.

To reiterate, in order to feel we have kept up with our peers many of us felt the need to partake whilst putting our own spin on the ice bucket challenge and as a result, made us engage with and give to the charity.

This is a great example of the power of the changing way many of us seek validation and therefore, just how much influence sharing on the internet is having on our lives. On the one hand, it shows how much good the internet can do for people and for causes. It has united the world in the plight of eradicating ALS.

On the other hand this is a prime example of how our affinity with our virtual identity is starting to leak out (no pun intended) into our physical identities. We record ourselves doing the ice bucket challenge and put it on the internet in order to feel acceptance and that we’ve kept up with our peers by participating; while receiving validation and praise for putting our uniqueness into the task.

The pressure of an internet phenomenon is having a real world effect on us in giving to a cause (that even the president on the United States feels he should act upon) that many of us have never been affected by in the past.

This is a prime example of how a physical uniting act shared through virtual means has had an effect on our virtual and physical identities.

I will be interested to see just how much people continue to give next year to ALS to see if the ice bucket challenge has put more people in touch to the plight of ALS sufferers or if it was the hegemonic pressure exerted by the internet and our need for acceptance and validation that was the catalyst for our engagement.

To conclude, I would just like to say I fully support any charitable activities, whether it be for either awareness or donations. Well done to any who have taken part in the ALS ice bucket challenge and please donate to: http://www.alsa.org/donate/

 

Philip Karahassan

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