The Bandwagon Bandwagon

Happy days! There’s a new craze sweeping the internet and it involves celebrities (and the occasional normal person) pouring buckets of ice water over their heads in an (occasional) effort to raise awareness for ALS. If you’re not aware of ALS, and by now you really should be, it’s a degenerative illness also known as Motor Neurone Disease or, in the USA, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and it affects limbs, and brain function, meaning that sufferers will usually first lose use of arms or legs and it will progress to impair breathing, speaking and movement of any kind. The most famous sufferer of ALS is undoubtedly Stephen Hawking.

Now, back to the ice water challenge. As with everything ever, it’s split opinions. And there are plenty of people around who are oh so happy to air those views. One group is just the people who leapt at the chance to jump on the cold, wet bandwagon and ‘help’ people without actually having to do much or know anything about those they’re ‘helping’. However plenty of people have taken issue with one aspect or another of the challenge, including some celebrities.

One argument against it is that it’s a waste of water to just throw bucketloads of the stuff over oneself. Each one wastes almost as much as a shower! And I don’t know about you, but I have showers every day, I must be killing the environment, or something. Maybe the answer is for everyone to stop showering. And flushing the toilet uses water, stop that too. Just go in the street, it’ll be like a hyper-realistic renaissance fair, and if we’re lucky cholera will pop back up and take out a few people in the formerly developed world, making more water available for the rest of us.

Others have argued that this challenge is nothing more than a social exercise and in fact it does virtually nothing to support, or contribute towards treatment for, ALS sufferers. A portion of the videos will be accompanied by a link to the ALS donation website ( and the person undertaking the challenge will have themselves donated. This is a good scenario. Others doing the challenge have made no reference to the disease while in some cases the ice challenge was done in lieu of donating, with the catch that if one didn’t complete the challenge they would have to donate, as a punishment or forfeit. I feel this might be giving the wrong impression. Although it may have led to money being raised, which is great, it suggests that donation is something to be avoided, something that is only done when one has done wrong. Donating to charity isn’t a chore, and this view may prove to be counter-productive. One famous face who’s picked up on and responded to the lack of donation is the ol’ winner, Charlie Sheen. He decided that instead of ice water he’d throw the $10,000 dollars he planned to donate over his head. Again, the money is great and will go a long way, but the method used, while yielding a strong message, suggested that people needed to be guilted into donating, again, a negative connotation attached to the act of giving money to charity.

Further gifts that this craze has bestowed upon us is for article fodder. Celebrities, who are often perceived as good-looking, being involved has allowed sites such as Buzzfeed to churn out piece after piece calling for the craze to be stopped because [Celebrity A] has won or telling of how seeing [Celebrity B] in a wet t shirt is the best thing ever and that as a direct result they can’t.

The ALS Ice Water Bucket challenge has brought about many a bandwagon, whether it was the original or a bandwagon that complained about, mocked, or celebrated the challenge and its many facets. Within the traffic however, it has raised awareness of a horrible disease and has raised lots of money through various means of both sound and questionable motives. So if you decide to donate to ALS research that’s great, if you just help to make people aware of it, that’s great too, you never know where it might lead, and if you just want to be part of the craze and don’t want to or can’t afford to donate, that’s ok too. To those complaining of the water wastage, stop trying to find fault in every popular social phenomenon, pack some stuff and go and help install a water pump in a small village in Sierra Leone.


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About Mark Dolan

Hello there, I'm Mark, a 21 year old English archaeology student. I write about various things; archaeology, musings on my life, and various bits of society that I have something to say about.

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