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The Ice Bucket Phenomenon and Lou Gehrig's Disease

Why all the fuss about Ice Water?

We’ve all seen it by now. Ice water is flowing over the heads of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and celebrities while they scream, giggle, or smirk at a camera. The flood was brought on by a social media storm called The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The letters stand for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and the buckets of ice water are supposed to encourage people to donate money for research into the disease. Why are so many people getting excited by disease research?


ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)

by J.L.
Talking about ALS

ALS itself is inherently hard to talk about. No cure exists. People diagnosed with the condition slowly become paralyzed. A very tiny minority survives the disease, and only half live longer than three years after diagnosis. These facts by themselves wouldn’t go viral over social media. Most people don’t like to think about it.


A bucket of ice water introduces a new context to the conversation. Instead of starting the discussion by talking about what a terrible disease ALS is, people on social media are introduced to the topic by silly videos of their friends and celebrities. In a typical video, after entertaining their friends, ALS is put in hopeful terms. No cure has been found yet, they explain. But the emphasis is on the “yet.”

This is a much easier way to talk about the disease. It’s one of the main reasons the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral. The videos give people a way to talk about a terrible disease while being goofy. This combination of hope, horror, and silliness has proved effective, raising millions of dollars in a short period of time. While the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge will soon wind down, it’s shown us that humor can help us work through difficult health situations. When we start to laugh, we begin to feel hope; and hope is powerful.

PHOTOGRAPH FOUND ONLINE: Photograph Title. 140814-TC-Ice_Bucket_ChallengeStill001--nfl_mezz_1280_1024.jpg  Website Title. Date Aug 14th, 2014

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