In a contemporary context, several Internet "challenges" have gone viral in recent years which have encouraged people to perform tasks that play well into our sensibilities for recording our lives in order to entertain others.
Whether that was attempting to eat a spoonful of cinnamon, snorting condoms, lighting oneself on fire, doing the running man, or plumping up one's lips like Kylie Jenner using the suction from a cup, all have since faded and become mere footnotes.
While the Ice Bucket Challenge would seem like another example of a self-shaming ritual, the 2014 viral display has had tangible results since it first appeared on YouTube back in 2014.
The whole phenomenon is often credited to Pete Frates, the former Captain of Boston College's baseball program, who was first diagnosed with ALS (perhaps better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease), a progressive neurodegenerative disease which leaves those in a complete state of paralysis and eventually claims their lives.
Frates was on the younger end of the ALS spectrum (27) — as it usually strikes people between the ages of 40-70. Thus, he was perhaps better suited than any of the other 200,000 Americans suffering from ALS at the time to understand how awareness was cultivated on the Internet.
"Over the course of a person's life, he or she will spend a total of 1,374 days reading books, and another 1,259 days online," Frates said. "Yet the life expectancy of a patient diagnosed with ALS is a mere 1,000 days."
Frate's display of dousing himself with frigid water registered with people even though the "trend" had gathered momentum in other sporting communities — especially golf — in the weeks and months before he decided to make a visual representation.
It was the perfect recipe for virality. Not only did it involve a sense of self shaming, but it also allowed people the ability to nominate friends and family to continue the momentum. But for those that chickened out, they would then need to donate money to fund ALS research.
Whereas with other Internet phenhnonon, the silliness was just that — for amusement — while the Ice Bucket Challenge had a tangible goal: raise money.
Buoyed by 1.35 billion monthly and 864 million daily Facebook users, the Ice Bucket Challenge quickly dominated both social media and more traditional news outlets.
If there was any negativity, it was that people thought this form of "slactivisim" wouldn't reap any tangible results as it related to developing a cure for ALS.
The celebrity aspect was both unexpected and a driving force to give the movement even greater awareness.
It started regionally — encouraged by Frates' Massachusetts upbringing and connection to Boston sports. In turn, Patriots wide receiver, Julian Edelman, got in on the act and challenged quarterback, Tom Brady. Subsequently, members of the Boston Bruins followed suit.
What was once simply funny videos of regular people getting doused in their backyards was now getting bigger and more grandiose.
LeBron James participated while on a yacht.
Paul Bissonnette, a former pro hockey player, had a helicopter dump water on him as he stood on a mountaintop overlooking Lake Widgeon in British Columbia.
Dozens of other celebrities/businessmen/politicians completed the challenge — including Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Bieber, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Pratt, Conan O'Brien, Steven Spielberg, Jeff Bezos, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake and former President George Bush.
When Pete Frates was named "Inspiration of the Year" by Sports Illustrated in December 2014, former President Bill Clinton stated, "All of you who are still around should remember the Ice Bucket Challenge and how we learned to laugh... All of these problems that have beleaguered us, it’s almost like God gave science a human face in its most distant frontiers, deep in our minds hearts and bodies.”
But as we're all well aware, trends can take on a life of their own and neglect to educate people on the causes that they are championing.
The business intelligence firm RJMetrics set to find out if that was the case with the Ice Bucket Challenge. After selecting 1,500 random #icebucketchallenge videos from YouTube and uploading their raw data for analysis, they found that 74 percent of the videos did indeed mention "ALS" in their videos.
However, only 20 percent of those same videos mentioned making donations in the name of ALS.
Despite many people putting the act about the cause, the overall awareness still generated $115 million USD for ALS-related causes in 2014. In context, they had raised $2.7 million USD during the same time period the year prior.
Of that total, $77 million USD, or 67 percent, went to research in hopes of actually making a tangible breakthrough for a disease that had no known cure.
In July 2016, researchers announced a potential breakthrough — albeit a small one. Researchers were able to identify "NEK1," which scientists say is among the most common genes that contribute to the disease and is associated with 3 percent of A.L.S. cases. The discovery, published in Nature Genetics, was the result of a global gene-sequencing effort involving 11 countries and 80 researchers, called Project MinE.
“Global collaboration among scientists, which was really made possible by ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations, led to this important discovery,” said John Landers of the University of Massachusetts, who was one of the lead researchers. “It is a prime example of the success that can come from the combined efforts of so many people, all dedicated to finding the causes of ALS. This kind of collaborative study is, more and more, where the field is headed.”
In subsequent years, more Ice Bucket Challenges were created to generate additional funds, but efforts in 2015 and 2016 never created as much overall awareness. However, the combined efforts still generated $250 million USD in overall donations for ALS in a three year period.
This week, Pete Frates entered the hospital as a result of his ongoing battle with ALS. Although he's currently paralyzed and unable to speak, he still hasn’t lost his sense of humor. After a false death report, a video was posted to his Twitter account showing Frates in a hospital bed and listening to the Pearl Jam song, “Alive.”