Going Viral – Riots, Death and Buckets of Ice

I love the internet. I love it probably more than anything else in the world. It’s amazing. When I think about how far it’s enabled us to come as a society in less than my lifetime, my mind is blown. Sometimes I consider going back to school to learn more about the internet (new and emerging media studies. Watch out Masters programs, I’m coming for you). I think it’s a great and wonderful tool when used correctly. I’ve been so incredibly lucky to be a part of a company that is directly helping reporters outside of major broadcasting companies bring the unrest in Ferguson Missouri directly to the masses. At its height, an independent radio station had over 80,000 viewers concurrently and over 1 million views of archived videos. That’s 10% of CNNs average viewership.  While the events in Ferguson are largely being ignored or spun by major cable networks, the internet is bringing it to the people through an entirely different lens. Feel however you want about what’s happening there but, sorry, that’s fucking cool as hell. 

Last week, I also witnessed the people of the world come together to mourn the loss of, in my opinion, one of our greatest ever humans: Robin Williams.  We were able to do so in a way that as early as 10 years ago wouldn’t have been possible. The collections of stories from both celebrities and every day people who were fortunate enough to know Mr. Williams in real life that suddenly became available were touching. Whether they came in tweets or on reddit or videos, they all helped us mourn what felt like a real human loss for most of us who never got the chance to know him, but were touched by his work. It also, I’m sure, brought a small level of comfort to his family to know that so much of the world was grieving with them so openly.  

Now lets talk about why I’m really here: The #IceBucketChallenge. 

Let me be straight with you. I love the internet, as I’ve mentioned. I also love really smart marketing.  I especially love when all these things come together, which is what we have here. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge is nothing more than a little bit of brilliant [possibly accidental] marketing, because if ya didn’t know, charities and nonprofits have marketing budgets, too; they don’t just sit around hoping people will find out about their cause and give them money.  Perhaps you’ve seen a St. Jude’s commercial or been too pained to watch a commercial featuring abused animals. Luckily, the internet is mostly free. All us idiots dousing ourselves with water costs them nothing and makes them millions. You’re brainwashed into buying things every minute of every day. This is not different. So here’s my problem with all of you complainers: 

If you are a person who gives of your money or time to a cause (any cause) regularly, that’s fantastic. Bravo/a to you, sir/ma’am. You, however, are in the vast minority.  We are so distracted and spending our valuable time and clicks and money on things that don’t really matter. We’re busy making the uninteresting and the scandalous famous with the share button. So, why is it such a big deal if some people are trying to do some good? A bucket of water over their head isn’t making even a little bit of a difference, you say? Nope, but neither is your bitchy tweet about it.  Your timelines are clogged up with annoying videos? Well, your whiney status takes up as much space, but sorry for bogging down this free service you’re by no means obligated to use with my charitable efforts.  I’ll be sure to be more considerate next time so your pointless, often NSFW posts that you’re sharing in the middle of a random Tuesday populate my timeline much more densely. 

The people making these complaints are by far the worst.  If you’re annoyed by the volume of videos to the point that you must vocalize your annoyance publicly, it might be time for you to step away from the screen and go outside. Pet a dog. Smell a flower. I don’t know, but you need to find something to do with your time. Shut it down for a while. Maybe you should go volunteer. Just a thought.  

The numbers say it outright: this is making a marked difference in donation volumes to ALSA.  Would the donations be greater if everyone just donated rather than dumping water over their heads? Yep. But, before people were dumping water over their heads, no one was donating. The chicken or the egg, my friends. Should the donations be higher, considering the amount of celebrities that have recently become involved? You betchya. But that, we can take up with them. 

Additionally, you are NOT a better person for donating rather than dumping the water.  Most people, especially people 18-30, are either still in school, unemployed or underpaid.  If you haven’t heard, we’ve recently been involved in somewhat of an economic downswing.  Ideally, I believe the challenge works best if you both participate in the water dumping and donate but I do think it’s silly that there’s a mandated amount of $100. In my heart, I think the donation should be whatever you can afford. But, as someone who as recently as last year, often couldn’t afford a cup of coffee after her student loan payments, I get it if you can’t swing it and I’m not mad about it. Dump some water on your head, spread the word. Solidarity. I feel you.  

The next group of critics I can understand on a better level: the ones who have a problem with the campaign because it’s not doing anything to promote knowledge of ALS as a disease. 

You, my friends, are correct. 

These videos aren’t intended to educate the viewers directly.  They’re throwing the name of the disease out there with the hopes people will read a little bit about it and find it in their heart to donate. Hell, I would hope that before anyone donated anything to anyone they did some research on where that money is going. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that’s what’s going on.  Whoever came up with this idea did a great job on making their campaign viral, but they still have a long way to go in attracting long term donors and friends to the cause.  Because, like everything else viral, this has another few weeks of shelf life, tops. And then, the influx in donations will stop and we’ll all be back to our cat videos and people falling down.  Should people care more? The answer to that question is always yes. But, the majority of us are dumb and we’re not going to naturally. The trick is to make us listen.  Global Citizens Project is doing a great job of it. While it’s on an enormous scale, it’s an idea. Work on making your information, and not just your name, viral.  

What I can’t argue with is the spirit that’s evolved behind this movement, which is what I think it’s become – a movement.  I’ve seen people compelled to donate to charities that mean more to them. ALS is a great cause, but it’s not the only cause and that should be recognized.  I’ve had friends drawn to the Parkinson’s Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, The Kind Campaign, Save the Music, Planned Parenthood, Global Wildlife Conservation and Cancer Research. Give to ALS or give to anyone who is going to put your money toward a great cause, preferably one that means something to you. If your $20 can go to help someone instead of your weekly manicure or a couple rounds of beers, you’ve done good.  

If you’re complaining for neither of those reasons and are just a whiner, just shut up. You’re the worst.  I hope you know that. 

P.S I implore you to learn more about ALS here: http://www.alsa.org/