And the worst offender of all...
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Most of you should be familiar with this by now. I live in Massachusetts, a state where this ridiculous-looking trend really took off. So I was aware of it fairly early on. And I recall thinking, Why are people dumping ice water on heads? and likening it to a less-vile version of the "set yourself on fire" meme.
Several days later, I was passing by the TV, and NECN was covering the local angle. That's how I learned that dumping icy water on your head was more than just a trend--there was a cause behind it.
But curmudgeon that I am, I thought: Sure, people are dumping water on their heads. It's probably not raising any money. As if on cue, the talking heads on the magic TV box addressed that very question. The Ice Bucket Challenge was actually raising money. Donations were up by 200%.
And I was happy to hear that something appearing so idiotic was actually doing some good.
A few more days passed, and I began to see torrents of icy water splashing across my Facebook feed. Then... the unthinkable.
A high school friend nominated me.
Typically, I'm not a fan of trends. Because, you know, they're trendy. But knowing that this was actually raising money to help an incurable disease, I decided to go for it. Pour a large pan of ice-cold water on my head.
To the delight of my children.
During the week that followed, I noticed an interesting trend (at least on my Facebook feed.) The people participating in the Challenge were predominantly "sporty" people--and perhaps this is due, in part, to the fact that the Challenge has a sports-related origin. But I noticed a relative absence of the Challenge occurring among other loosely categorizeable groups. As someone who writes and loves scifi, for example (and has a general penchant for geekery), I noted that my nerdy compadres were staying dry.
And that's when I noticed the backlash.
Some of the "non-sporty" crowd were not only dissing the Challenge (and hey--that's right) but they were doing it vehemently. Angrily. And I found it completely bizarre.
These are some of the arguments against the challenge I came across:
- "No one's going to tell me what to do!" (Sure.)
- "It's stupid, and I'll bet donations aren't even affected." (Untrue.)
- "No one's going to bully me." (Yes. I swear the word "bully" was used. Which really cheapens the word.)
- "I can choose myself how and where I'm going to donate my money!" (Of course you can. And you know what? There is no ALS police monitoring Facebook to see who has and has not donated $100. Really. No one is going to rip you from your bed in the middle of the night.)
- "There are more pressing issues and diseases than ALS." (I actually agree. But no one I know has ALS, either. Above, I mentioned several horrible things going on in the world right now. If you feel outraged that people are sending boatloads of cash for ALS research, send your own contribution to your cause of choice.)
- "It's just another stupid viral campaign that ultimately will have no impact." (Again, I refer you to the facts. It has had a real impact. Granted, some viral marketing campaigns are pretty stupid, and don't have the impact this one has. [I'm looking at you, 'what color is your bra' Breast Cancer campaign. Which I was not a fan of, because of the way it adds to the public perception that breast cancer is a "female" disease.]
- "I already gave money to this charity. Now I feel like I have to again!" (Um, if you feel that way, that's your choice. No one is "making" you feel anything.)
And I thought to myself, just wait until Neil Gaiman or Tom Hiddleston or Felicia Day or some other Geek God/Goddess gets in on this action. Then the tide will turn.
I present to you Exhibit A. And here's Exhibit B.--Nathan Fillion. BECAUSE NATHAN FILLION.
So, I get it. We have our own subcultures, and the things we think are cool, partly because they are cool, and partly because other people think they're cool. And if you don't think something is a good idea for any reason, don't do it. But don't be so obnoxious about it. And try to have your facts straight.
And most of all, realize that these things are not zero-sum games. Just because the charity of your choice is not the one in the spotlight, it doesn't mean that the one in the spotlight is unworthy. I suggest turning your outrage into something useful, for something you agree with, instead of spouting anger across the Internet.
In the wise words of my ten-year old daughter, "Don't judge. Just love."
p.s. See how the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started here.