Enter the douche ex machina here to ruin the day: the self-righteous friend complaining via Facebook about people not following the rules, the person who texts you a meme about African children without water, or the journalist/media commentator who needs to find a way to call out “hashtag activism.” We took something that by all accounts is a success and found a way to make it terrible.
The worst people aren’t the hashtag activists—they’re the ones sitting behind their computers and typing angry prose of disapproval. You know the type, the ones who point out how unrealistic something is when they’re watching a Seth Rogen movie. We know the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t perfect, just like we know that Seth Rogen couldn’t possibly launch into the ceiling if he sat on an airbag. But that doesn’t mean we need to frantically wave our hands in the air about how not everyone donated, that we should’ve donated the money we spent on ice instead, or that we’re “wasting” buckets of water on our heads.
Yes, people are spending money on ice to dump over their heads, but that’s an element of fundraising, like making team T-shirts for a charity or bringing cookies to a bake sale. All the cynics who want people to donate in humility and not post it on our social media feeds completely overlook the fundamental reality that humans are social animals. In the hierarchy of needs, we search for community and fulfill the urge to belong, so donating without dumping buckets of water on our heads disconnects us from a cause. It’s about being a part of something.
The hashtag activists actually create that community. Since when did fighting for something—whether a cure for a disease or gay rights—mean that you needed permission to sit with the cool kids at lunch? What’s the harm of having them there, even the ones who ended up there by accident, the people dumping buckets of iced water on their heads with zero connection to the cause? They are the people who end up at a bar where the proceeds go to charity, and they’re only drinking for fun, but who the fuck are you to kick them out of the party? They’re pumping up the crowds, having a fabulous time, and building momentum. Or are you that desperate for your Facebook feed to go back to engagement announcements and mediocre attempts at food photography?
Keep dumping buckets of iced water over your head and I’ll keep “liking” it. The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of the few things that’s given me hope since I got diagnosed with early ALS six weeks ago, at age 29.