The narcissism in “the ice bucket challenge”- and why it makes millenials care

Charity- it’s something that is supposed to be done out of the goodness of one’s heart yet we see it time and time again as a way to not-so-humbly brag about our generosity to others.

With the viral phenomena “the ice bucket challenge,” an internet challenge via social media which tells its challenger to either dump a bucket of ice on their head or donate $100 to the ALS foundation, critics are swarming the internet with skepticism about the actual benefit of this challenge to the ALS foundation. I mean after all, isn’t the point almost to avoid charity? To get a bunch of likes on a video of you pouring a bucket of freezing cold ice-water on yourself so that you don’t have to open your checkbook and write a check for that $100 you know you don’t really want to spend? 

There is definitely no denying that narcissism can be found in the “ice bucket challenge” and other “charity” stunts as such- but can the actual outcome of the social media stunt be debated?

People are interested in attention, probably almost as much as they are interested in seeing their friends pour ice water all over themselves. Lets be honest here, nobody is interested in seeing someone pull out $100 and give it to charity. With that being said, as a public relations major, I am more than interested as to what gets the public interested, because trust me- its not easy to capture the attention of such a fickle public, particularly millennials. I am always looking for the right tags to use, or the right headlines or the right pictures to get people to read my blog posts. So if this ice bucket challenge that is going around, regardless of how silly, narcissistic, or pretentious it may be, actually gets people interested in the cause, then isn’t it worth it?

As a matter of fact, since the ice bucket challenge went viral in late July, the ALS foundation has earned $5.7 million, over five times as much as they did during this period last year. The ALS foundation considers the challenge a “big hit,” and I couldn’t agree more. Since the challenge has started the ALS foundation has gained over 107,000 new donors — about 31/2 times the number of people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

So this begs the question- is avoiding charity the new giving to charity? Is raising public awareness for a charity through something as ingenuous as the ice bucket challenge truly the best way to get the public, especially millennials to be aware of problems our society faces?

Honestly, if “charity challenges” are the new cinnamon challenge (which was not only imprudent but dangerous) then I am perfectly okay with that. Maybe this is just the new way that the public should be marketing their charity campaigns. Our generation loves a good, fun hearted, entertaining challenge, so isn’t it a good thing that organizations can use this to their advantage?

While I believe charity should be a selfless act done in anonymity, or at least for minimal recognition, if making charity challenges for all of your friends to see online actually helps the cause as much as the ice bucket challenge did for the ALS foundation, then so be it- just be glad that its early August and not December.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Matt Gilliam says:

    Yes it can be debated, I mean only by people like Jesus…“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

    2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

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