Latest social media craze is not all good

Latest social media craze is not all good

Latest social media craze is not all good

First published in Columns

ANYONE who has read any of my musings over recent months will surely have come to the conclusion I am not what the young people may refer to as trendy (do young people still use that word?) I steer well clear of social media, I’m not on Facebook and I use Twitter solely as a means of getting news quickly.

One of the real benefits of my cyber isolation is that I am spared the worst excesses of viral phenomena.

I like to think I’m down with the kids, but patently I’m not.

By the time the latest cultural craze comes to my attention, it is most certainly not new and definitely not trendy.

So you can imagine my horror when news of the Ice Bucket Challenge forced its way into my consciousness.

If you have been living in a cave on top of a mountain for the past three months, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge involves having a bucket of ice water dumped on your head to promote awareness of motor neurone disease – MND – (known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in America, hence ALS) and encourage donations.

It went viral on social media during the summer, starting in July in the US, and quickly spread to this country.

The challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured over their heads. They then nominate others to do the same in a sort of charity pyramid selling scheme.

The ‘rules’ usually stipulate that if you are nominated, you have 24 hours to complete the challenge or pay a ‘forfeit’ of a charitable donation. Those who complete the challenge make a smaller donation.

This is a good thing, isn’t it? Social media being used as a force for good.

Well, actually, I don’t think it is good at all. In my opinion, it is actually a dark and quite sinister form of fundraising.

The challenge came to prominence when high-profile sportsmen and women and stars from the world of entertainment did it.

If they want to fuel their narcissism by stripping off, having a bucket of water thrown over them and then making sure the whole world knows about it, that’s fine by me.

But it quickly moved from the rich and famous to ‘ordinary’ people.

Now I was under the impression that cyber bullying was a bad thing, something to be condemned, to be rooted out.

But surely the Ice Bucket Challenge is no more than cyber bullying wearing the cloak of respectability provided by the word charity and using peer pressure to make sure it wrings every last penny out of those who don’t have the strength of character to stand up to it.

To my mind, all that has happened here is that the perpetually cheerful and singularly annoying ‘chuggers’ – the charity muggers who infest our high streets – have simply moved onto the internet.

I give to charity on a regular basis. The hospice movement along with cancer and heart charities hopefully benefit from what I have to give.

But I don’t feel the need to go on Facebook or YouTube and post a video of myself handing over a tenner. Nor do I feel I have to shame my friends into giving to my chosen charities.

I upset a few people the last time I wrote about charity when I said I never had and never would give to animal charities. But if you want to give to the RSPCA or your local donkey sanctuary, that’s your business, no one else’s.

And that’s my point.

If you are happy to give to MND, go ahead, take the challenge, post the video for all your friends to see and get on with your life.

MND appears to be a small and under-funded charity that has received a welcome boost both to its funds and its profile thanks to an internet sensation that was not of its making and I don’t have a problem with that.

But what about all the other charities out there that haven’t got a viral campaign backing them? Is this what it’s come to? Have we reached the stage now where the only way a charity can raise money is by people being forced to give because of peer pressure because some challenge or other has gone viral?

I hope not.

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