For me, the water may have been a bit warmer than most.
With the instantly viral #IceBucketChallenge, I tried to wrap my mind around the concept: pouring a bucket of ice water over your head sucks — but living with ALS is worse. There are a lot of things that are worse that ice water, but that’s beside the point and not actually the point at this moment.
I remember those emails when I had a Yahoo account: ”~*~*~ Forward this email to 5 friends or you will have bad luck for 3 years! Forward this to 10 people and your crush will return your feelings. *~*~*~” etc. etc. And because I was 12 at the time, with some ridiculous email address of ‘boyluver123’ or ‘disneyfanatic’ or something of the sort, I did it — I selected 5 unwilling victims and forwarded the crazy message along. Because I believed that everyone would think I was a terrible person if I didn’t, or so I thought. And the emails were successful, because who wanted bad luck or didn’t want their crush to like them back?
With this Ice Bucket Challenge to strike out ALS and bring awareness to the cause, it got me thinking….on a run no less. And I’m sure that many others have thought of this, because there are far smarter minds and individuals out there than mine and myself. This challenge was the first one I’ve seen to go viral — to challenge someone online, to CALL THEM OUT and to get them to do the same, giving them a time limit and a “consequence” if they didn’t. No one is 100% holding them accountable; no one is following up the next day and hounding their friend to donate $100. (I would love to see the stats on ALS donations after this challenge, not just awareness.) But from what I have witnessed, hundreds if not thousands (Don’t be coy - I’m not friends with thousands of people on Facebook) of people are participating in this: filming themselves ‘selfie-style,’ calling out friends, using ice, getting wet, and posting it online. It takes all of 2-3 minutes.
And looking at this model regardless if it’s right or wrong — the nature of social shaming, — why couldn’t we use this to empower communities and individuals to make a change and bring awareness to different types of initiatives or lifestyles? What I mean to say is, why can’t we film ourselves going to Starbucks with a household coffee mug and ask them to fill that instead of using a paper cup? Or picking up trash on the street? Or donating clothes to a shelter or GoodWill? Or shopping at a farmer’s market instead of Walmart? Or donating to a cause we care about? Or volunteering? Or riding or running to work instead of using a car? Or getting a flu shot or vaccine? Or recycling? Or helping out a stranger? Or meeting our neighbor? Why don’t we film ourselves doing these things and calling out others to do the same? Why did this challenge work so well that it went viral and convinced total strangers to take time out of their day to pour water all over their bodies, including my own? What is holding anyone back?
The fear in my mind is that this model could potentially turn into an Instagram-effect: portraying our lives to seem so perfect and wonderful and holy, hoping everyone is jealous of us, our food, and our picture taking skills, even if it takes 105 shots to get it right. What are our motives and do we even share those with others? Were most people motivated to do this Ice Bucket Challenge because out of the goodness of their hearts they cared about ALS? Maybe. I will not judge the actions and characters of others. But for most, I would say that we didn’t want our social inter-web friends to shame us for not doing the particular act, because we WERE called out, weren’t we? I felt and did exactly that. And because of that, this campaign was successful. Maybe not for the right reasons, but it was and is.
What if we channeled this movement and challenged ourselves and others to make good choices for this world and our community and our bodies? What if instead of shaming others we empowered others to unite and work for justice? What if this became a thing?
I am not sure what the future holds or even the answers to any of the above questions. If we will become a culture and generation of change and social activism, not needing to film it for the world to see. But for all we know, it could start with a one minute video.