Many readers are probably aware of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” that is making the rounds across the world. A person dumps a bucket of ice on themselves, challenges someone else to do the same, and (hopefully) donates to a foundation researching ALS as a means of helping “educate” others on ALS and as a means of eradicating the crippling and lethal syndrome.
Sounds absurd, right? Maybe it’s just me, but this sounds like a social experiment in which many feign altruism in exchange for publicity. In a way, the altruism (just assume quotation marks around the word for the rest of this post) is societally mandated. By calling out another to perform the challenge, the message is made clear: participate or be stigmatized by having been publicly called out on a task that may or may not be important to you. Let me repeat that: the dynamics of the “challenge” require that another be tasked with doing the same. It is viral. In addition, the one initiating the challenge is – in most cases – posting to social media (or other media for those who are celebrities) as a means of “Look at this great thing I’m doing” and then is effectively forcing another to do the same thing regardless of how this other person feels about charity or whether they even have the means to afford it.