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Editor's Note: Ice bucket challenge proves social media can be a force for good

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

So, have you dumped a bucket of ice water on your head lately?

The ice bucket challenge is fascinating me as a social phenomenon.

I also find the videos really entertaining.

If there is anyone not yet aware of the challenge, in essence, it works like this: you make a video of yourself dumping a bucket of ice water on your head, and you name other people you challenge to do the same. The people you challenge then have 24 hours to either accept your challenge and make their own video, or donate to fund research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological condition in which your brain basically stops communicating with your body. You remain cognitively intact, but trapped in a body you can’t move.

The videos are posted to social media, and as one of my Facebook friends pointed out recently, have pretty much taken over Facebook. Almost every post in my news feed involves someone taking the challenge or complaining about it.

Though technically the rules say you take the challenge in lieu of donating, most people are choosing to donate as well as dump water on their heads. And for those naysayers who gripe that this is a silly stunt that is having no real impact, I disagree – the ALS Foundation reported it received $53.3 million between July 29 and Aug. 21. To put that into perspective, it raised $2.2 million in the same time period last year.

And that’s just one ALS charity; others are reporting anywhere from two to 10 or more times their usual revenue coming in.

Plus, it really is raising awareness. I know several people of my own acquaintance who looked up ALS to learn more about it specifically because of the challenge.

It’s actually one of those rare instances in which social media is having a positive impact on society.

What a concept.

The videos range from the basic, like my cousin, who dumped his bucket while standing fully clothed in the bathtub, to the elaborate, like a friend who made a silent film-style video, complete with frantic piano music and placards. My favorite part of most of the celebrity videos I’ve watched is the seeming randomness of the challenges – like Rachael Ray challenging Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, who challenged Neil Patrick Harris.

For those who are sick of the videos, I have a feeling they’ve probably just about run their course and will start tapering off soon. But I hope that other charitable causes will find their own unique, fun, attention-getting campaigns as they chase the ALS ice bucket challenge’s success.

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