WASHINGTON — The latest piece of hashtag activism to run rampant through the sports world (and America at large) is the ice bucket challenge.
For those of you unaware, here’s the gist: someone challenges you to dump a bucket of ice water on your head. You either fail to complete the challenge and “owe” $100 to the ALS Association, or complete the challenge and “owe” $10, then go on to challenge others.
And, well, pretty much everyone else from Martha Stewart to whatever the heck is going on here. Look at him. Seriously, he needs you to look at him.
While there’s no accountability actually tying anyone financially to this challenge, clearly money is coming in. According to the ALS Association, they have raised $7.4 million, $6.2 million more during the drive than they did last year. This is obviously a good thing, and shows the power of social media when it comes to spreading information.
But it’s not the whole story.
As a conservative estimate, let’s say that each person who completed the ice bucket challenge actually donated $10 to the cause (which, again, we cannot verify). That’s 740,000 challenges completed. Those events include up to several gallons of clean drinking water for every “challenge accepted.” That’s a lot of clean drinking water, dumped over heads and onto the ground for no actual reason.
This is, quite frankly, an insult to the parts of the world that have little or no drinking water readily available. It’s in especially poor taste this summer, with much of the western and southwestern United States dealing with one of the worst droughts in decades. There are even D.C. area residents who have been instructed to boil their water this week, due to unsafe conditions.
The bigger issue, though, is the look-at-me culture this promotes. Hashtag activism is not real activism. Dumping a bucket of ice water over your head does not make you a hero. Posting about it on social media and challenging others to do the same certainly doesn’t either.
Let’s be very clear about something. I am all in favor of raising money for ALS. It’s an awful, progressive, deadly disease for which we have no cure. I watched my uncle Chris, a proud Navy pilot, reduced to a wheelchair, his chest heavy with each breath, before it eventually took his life.
So, instead of wasting several gallons of cold water and shouting out your non- achievement from the rooftop, I have a better idea. There are plenty of organizations in this country that need your time, attention and charity. I’m cutting the Foundation my own $100 check, without the false pretext and self- congratulation. I challenge you to do the same.