ANYONE with an account on any social media website can’t fail to have escaped the latest craze over the last month or so – the Ice Bucket Challenge.
If you’ve managed to avoid it so far, let me explain the premise. It’s a simple one – someone nominates you to take part, you get drenched by having a bucket of ice-cold water poured over you, then you get to extract some form of vengeance by nominating some of your friends to get an icy shower.
The challenge has done the rounds here, with this reporter being nominated for a soaking by none other than Wycombe Wanderers manager Gareth Ainsworth before challenging, among others, Marlow’s mayor Suzanne Brown to have a bucket of ice cold water tipped over her.
It gives people a giggle, whether it’s at their own expense or their friends, while businesses, politicians and celebrities have all tried to show us their human side and prove to us all that they’re game for a laugh by taking part.
And that’s where things start to go wrong. The problem comes when an internet craze falls victim to the bandwagon jumpers.
Take singer Olly Murs as a case in point. Seemingly desperate to get an ice cold slice of the action, last week the former X Factor finalist tweeted: “Someone nominate me, I’d be well up for the Ice Bucket Challenge.”
It was a ‘come and get me’ message you’d expect from a teenage girl and one that was accompanied with a picture of a screaming face; a mixture of terror at the thought of having a bucket of ice cold water poured over him, and delight at being made an inclusive part of something wacky.
But, in truth, it simply smacked of desperation and missed the whole point of what the challenge is all about. Rather like Christmas, some people have forgotten the true meaning behind the Ice Bucket Challenge and why it started in the first place.
Whereas plenty of other crazes to have swept the internet over the years – such as spoof Gangnam Style videos and ‘planking’ – have generally been seen by participants as being nothing more than a bit of harmless fun, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a light-hearted venture that has a serious message behind it.
Last year’s social media challenge was the no makeup selfie, aimed at promoting cancer charities, but the message behind the Ice Bucket Challenge is being increasingly overlooked simply because people want to be seen to be taking part in the latest viral craze.
It’s aimed at raising awareness of, and money to fund research into, ALS – a form of motor neurone disease. American charities have, happily, noticed a sharp increase in the number of donations rolling in ever since the Ice Bucket Challenge first started going viral earlier this year.
For example, the ALS Therapy Development Institute has had a ten-fold increase in the amount of donations it’s received compared to this time last year, and the latest estimates suggest the stunt has raised £37m for various motor neurone disease charities and support groups around the world.
But all too often it’s easy to forget the purpose the challenge was designed for and it seems people are queuing up to take part because, well, it’s a bit of a laugh.
Instead it should serve as a reminder that diseases such as ALS are no laughing matter and affect millions of people worldwide.
By all means take the plunge – but remember why you’re doing it.