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Beyond the Bucket

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (September 6, 2014)

About a week ago, I received the nomination from a friend for me to do the Ice Bucket Challenge. I’m sure many people are like me and have seen their Facebook newsfeed change completely in the last couple of weeks and are being bombarded with videos of people pouring ice water on themselves. It’s amazing to see how social media has enabled a cause to be so viral so quickly and to catch the attention of housewives and Hollywood superstars to politicians to sportsmen worldwide. And amidst this frenzy, very extreme views have surfaced about this act and very extreme videos have also surfaced.

I’ve seen a range of videos to date: from celebrities to people whom I don’t know; from tiny bowls of water to huge ice buckets being used; from people my parents’ age to tiny two-year-old toddlers. One thing is for sure – this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taken the world by storm.

I think what surprised me right after I was nominated was that I received a message from a student asking me to nominate her after I do the challenge. And my first response was to ask this girl what she knew about ALS. At the time, she knew very little. And it struck me that people wanted to do the Bucket Challenge for different reasons:

1) For fun

Some people thought it was a fun thing to do and saw it as a fun way to bring awareness. For the most part, I enjoyed the ones that were fun-loving and creative but there were also ones where people thought it would be fun to do it drunk at a bar, which personally, didn’t show the reasoning behind doing the challenge.

2) For attention

For some people, it was a time to use the opportunity to bring attention to themselves. It really upset me to see girls do the challenge in seductive bikinis and see-through white tank tops to do the challenge. For a challenge that should have brought attention to a medical condition and a charitable cause, some people made it into a self-seeking attention-seeking act.

3) For promotion

Some people thought it would be a good idea to use it for promotional purposes – whether for their company or their political campaign. It seemed like the bucket challenge was them riding off the wave of attention for them to promote something of their own.

4) For the cause

And the last type was the one I admired most was people doing it because they knew and understood more about the condition and wanted to do a small part to help. There have been tear-jerking videos of people doing it because their family member passed away with ALS or that they themselves have ALS.

Everyone seems to have their own opinion about the ice bucket challenge. Some think it’s a waste of water, others think it’s helping give ALS the attention it deserves. My personal challenge to myself and hopefully to others is to go beyond the bucket. The Ice Bucket Challenge was and is a great way to participate in a global wave of awareness and attention for ALS but the challenge itself didn’t help us understand learn more about the condition. I challenge myself to learn more about it but to also learn more about other conditions and issues that exist in the world. Let’s not focus on the act that brought attention but focus on the cause itself. Let’s go beyond the bucket to make a difference.

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