I’m sure you have seen them. The sudden barrage of videos on Facebook or other social media sites of people “challenging” their friends to complete a task for bragging rights is becoming wildly popular. Amongst them are news-making videos of teens voluntarily lighting themselves on fire that have gone wrong—cringe worthy to say the least for health communication folks like us. So many challenges have fueled the trend that lately, I’ve tried to ignore them, hoping that if no attention was given, their popularity would diminish.
This week, however, a clip of Matt Lauer on the Today Show getting a bucket of ice dumped on his head by co-host Savannah Guthrie stopped me in my tracks. I had seen previews of these particular videos on my feed over the last few days of seemingly influential people participating, but I was so determined to ignore them that it hadn’t occurred to me that this one was different.
The #IceBucketChallenge has taken a few different routes but are all similar in that an individual is nominated to take the challenge and then has 24 hours to complete the challenge or pay a set amount to a charity of choice. To complete the challenge, the video needs to be posted on Facebook or YouTube, and then the person who gets dunked nominates more friends to keep the challenge moving.
Matt Lauer’s interpretation of the stunt requested that Brian Williams, Martha Stewart (who actually completed it), and Howard Stern all participate in honor of a hospice facility in West Palm Beach, FL. Many sources claim that the challenge originated by former Boston College baseball player Peter Frates, who has successfully raised more than $168, 000 on behalf of the ALS Association thus far. The original concept is simple: submit yourself to a moment of hair-raising shivers but dumping a bucket of ice water over your head or pay up and donate $100 to ALS.
Luckily for us, the social media phenomenon has taken a positive spin, creating awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease and raising money at the same time. “It’s just been wonderful visibility for the ALS community,” ALS Association’s national president Barbara Newhouse told NBC Sports. “It is absolutely awesome. It’s crazy, but it’s awesome, and it’s working.”