News, Culture & Society

The Legacy of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – 5 Years On

If you were on social media about 5 years ago, then chances are that you would have seen the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ go viral. Designed to raise awareness of the disease ALS, it definitely had an impact around the world,  helping people to learn about the disease and what it means for those diagnosed with it.

ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is a neurodegenerative disease which will progressively get worse over time. It affects nerve cells that are found within the brain and within the spinal cord too.

These cells will tell the muscles throughout the body to move and as they are taken over by the disease then the movement within those muscles is lost. The muscles then waste away and can no longer be used.Over time, an individual with ALS will lose the ability to move, to speak, to eat and to breathe and the disease is eventually fatal.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

During July and August of 2014, social media platforms came alive with something that was known as the ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’. More than just a fun video to make and share with your friends, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was designed to promote awareness of ALS.

In order to take part in the challenge, the person being filmed would nominate three people to complete the same challenge within a set time-frame, as well as make a donation to the ALS Association. After this intro, the individual would then be filmed having a bucket full of ice and freezing cold water poured over their head.

Needless to say, this activity was a huge hit. Over the course of the 2 months that it was at its most popular, there were more than 17 million challenge videos posted on social media. Whilst the main bulk of these were completed by us “normal” folks, there were also plenty of high-profile people taking on the challenge and nominating their fellow high profile friends too.

Some of the most famous faces who took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge included Chris Pratt, Oprah, Bill Gates, Macklemore, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.

Thanks to immense popularity of the challenge, in the USA, more than $115million was raised. $77million of this was provided for on-going ALS research and $23 million was given to community services and patients alike.

Not only did the challenge help to raise money to help those with ALS, but it also helped to raise awareness of a disease that was largely unfamiliar to the general public. Typically, people didn’t know about ALS unless they, or a close friend or family member, had been diagnosed with.

What we have learned

It goes without saying that the money raised for research into ALS has definitely made a difference into what is known about the disease, as well as what can be done to help those who live with it.

Of course, one of the main benefits from the challenge-taking place has been the increased level of funds available to help scientists discover more about the disease and develop potential treatments.

By raising awareness of ALS, there has also been a huge uptake in those who want to work with researchers to solve the questions that have been asked about the disease. As well as this, there have also been moves made to improve the level of care and support that is provided for those people with ALS, and their families too.

The Ice Bucket Challenge also showed that social media is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to not only raising money for certain causes, but also for raising awareness too.

When you make a social media video, share a photo or take the time to write a post, then you are going to be sharing that with those on your social media network. If that post is fun, or looks like it could be an interesting challenge, then there is a much greater chance that those who are tagged, nominated, or even just see it, are going to also participate and share their own attempt.

All of this is done for free to the organisation or charity; which means that their message is out there, without them having to spend any of their precious funds out on marketing. This of course means that their funds can be more actively used to conduct further research, improve their levels of support to patients as well as potentially discovering new treatments and cures.