It was all for a good cause but the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge came, conquered and left the rest of us feeling vanquished with the speed, determination and exploding factor only social media could harness for such a worthy cause. The sheer speed with which it spread over social media, the continuation of the chain and the reach it had were all good. It raised millions of dollars for ALS research and made a lot of people shiver in the icy cold water but when looking back, what really was its significance?
Power of social media
What can be picked up in retrospect, as learning experiences from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as we look back upon it, basking as it is in the aftermath of the phenomenal social media success?
The ALS Ice Bucket taught us that social media works like no other medium of communication. The platform of social media simply cannot be compared against any other traditional media. Time and again, we are surprised by the sheer capability and the capacity of the social media networks.
Social media platforms like Twitter enables us to connect directly with celebrities and other opinion leaders and weight in with our own opinions, able to have them amplified through a seamless network. Facebook allowed us to create and allow the network to spread.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge picked up steam from Facebook and Twitter and allowed opinion leaders to participate; the social media networks led the activation and enabled it to spread to every corner.
It could be safely said that social media was the foundation for the campaign to gather the momentum.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge also showed us that one can indeed make a difference. The power of one was amply demonstrated when one man’s effort when viral and resulted in the world’s most widely accepted challenge for charity.
From a simple fundraising campaign to a major Internet sensation, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has since raised millions of dollars for the ALS Association. It started when a golfer Chris Kennedy in Florida was nominated by a friend to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which at the time was not tied to ALS.
At the time, the participants could donate to a charity of their choice. Kennedy selected ALS to support since he knew a relative who was affected by it. He posted his video online in July and challenged his friends to go along; friends nominated others and once the chain started, it spread like a wildfire.
Truly, the power of one, demonstrated in its outreach to the community and the world at large. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taught us that we can reach out and touch the world if we want to. We need to have a powerful and sincere message that could be easily amplified and transform the world and how it perceives a cause.
Rice bucket challenge
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge also taught us that given a good cause, people would not hesitate to take it on. Whether or not their motives were driven by publicity, exposure or doing as the Joneses do, we saw that a common platform of social media could touch and transform people throughout the world with a common cause.
Powerful stuff, when you realise that what started in a small American town came to be emulated by the likes of Bill Gates and former US President George Bush. It captures the thought that a singularly powerful idea can take hold almost instantly.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge came with its own challenges too. How relevant was it for us here in Sri Lanka, where a major drought had taken hold in certain parts of the country, where water was indeed very precious. Or could we honestly say that what takes place outside the country is not relevant to us? In fact, we are also a part of the world’s community at large and are really unable to escape its trends, its fads and the like, especially since we are so connected, wired on seamless platforms through social media.
There were other interesting aspects that came out of the whole thing. Rice bucket challenge generated a lot of interest, coming as it did from India. The notion of donating a bucket of rice was as a good idea as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge; it spoke of the need to bridge the gap that exists between two different worlds. It brought many of us back to the reality that the hungry, the destitute exist among us.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge showed us that there are people who care enough for others out there. It acknowledged that no matter how bad the world might seem; people still do care. It sealed the notion that people will participate and give of themselves for a cause they felt they could believe in.
Fads come and go, in the name of charity and otherwise. What we pick up from such fads and what we choose to do with it is pretty much our own business. We cannot escape them; neither can we pretend we are aloof from it all. It is always good to strike a balance and ask ourselves, what have we gathered from it as a learning experience?
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior writer, journalist and a PR professional, can be contacted at email@example.com)