Moral Licensing

Some interesting articles have been posted about the recent ALS fundraising bucket challenge. Normally I would never address fads like this, but I feel like these voices have weighed in on the delicate balance between raising awareness and social media voyeurism. I highlighted some of the best points, the QUARTZ article is my favourite so far.



In a popular piece called “We need to do better than the ice bucket challenge,” TIME’s Jacob Davidson argues that the challenge is “almost inherently offensive to those touched by ALS.

“Initially, I was overjoyed all this attention was now focused on ending a disease that had caused me so much pain,” he wrote, noting that the neurodegenerative disease had killed his father. “But when I looked closer, I became uneasy. No wonder it took me weeks to learn the Ice Bucket Challenge was linked to ALS. Most of its participants, including Kennedy and Today’s Matt Lauer didn’t mention the disease at all. The chance to jump on the latest trend was an end in itself.” 


We should not reward people for minor acts of altruism, when they could have done so much more, because doing so creates a culture where the correct response to the existence of preventable death and suffering is to give some pocket change.

So, sure, pour a bucket of water over yourself, or go bungee jumping, or lie in a bathtub of beans, whatever. But only do these things if you connect these fundraisers with meaningful behavior change, otherwise your campaign, even if seemingly fantastically successful, could be doing more harm than good.


There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but most the annoying is that it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism.

This is the crux of millennial “hashtag activism,” where instead of actually doing something, you can just pretend like you’re doing something by posting things all over your Facebook. Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, good causes end up being a collective of social media naval gazing. We reflected on our favorite social-movements-gone-viral and found out what happened to them after the fell off our Twitter feeds.


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