Peer Pressure is Peer Pressure- Even When it’s for a Good Cause

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It is, without exaggeration, the only thing I’ve been reading about lately. My FB feed is filled with friends and family doling out nominations and dousing themselves with the cold water of the challenge.

On Twitter people are being called out as “hashtag activists” while others question the effectiveness of viral campaigns.

Some people are adamant that the Ice Bucket Challenge is the best way to raise awareness and generate donations towards developing a cure for this terrible disease. Some people don’t agree with the wastefulness that goes along with the challenge itself. I get that. Consider not only the amount of fresh water being dumped out but also the energy used to create ice cubes, the plastic packaging for those who purchase the bags of ice, the gas spent on the trip to the store…etc.

There have been variations on the challenge for other causes as well. Yesterday I read about the new Rice Bucket Challenge taking place in India. Other campaigns are capitalizing on the buzz being generated through the ALS version.

There’s an ugly side coming out of the debate that cannot be ignored though. Those who are jumping in wholeheartedly are criticized for jumping on yet another bandwagon without thought. At the same time, people refusing to participate are labelled as “haters” or worse, regardless of their reason for abstaining or even questioning any part of the campaign.

Like I said, it’s kind of everywhere at the moment.

To anyone suffering, my heart aches for you. Truly. Physical, emotional, geographical, religious, or gender-based reasons; it’s all terrible to be unhealthy, unwell, and unable to care for yourself or your family. To me it’s not a matter of who is worse off. I acknowledge the problems that exist and, of course, I want to help.

When I first saw the Ice Bucket Challenge, I thought it was fine. I enjoyed the videos and love the fact that celebrities are using their fame for a good cause. But as the campaign began to pick up speed and I started seeing the faces of my friends and family taking part, I only had one thought:

Please, for the love of Jeebus, don’t nominate me.

I began to dread checking my FB, knowing that it was only a matter of time before I was called upon.

Everyone’s doing it though. Everyone’s doing it so you should too. Right?

I started to proactively think about ways to avoid it all. I could ignore the nomination. I could point out the other charities I’ve donated to this month, this year.

I could still hear the voices though:

Oh, just do it. It’s not that big of a deal.

Or even:

You don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t do it, do you?

Are any of these phrases sounding familiar? I feel like a PSA against underage drinking or drug use. Yes, I understand that giving to charity is clearly not the same as huffing spraypaint, but the tactics being used to urge my participation are undoubtedly the same.

It doesn’t matter why I don’t want to dump ice on my head. That doesn’t make me a hater or a bad person. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to support the cause and it doesn’t mean that I’m against those who do. It’s peer pressure though. And it’s hard to avoid.

So, yesterday when my dear sister-in-law nominated me for the Ice Bucket Challenge, I had some thinking to do. Ultimately, I went with this:


I made a donation to, which by the way, is the whole point isn’t it? and I avoided having to make the video. Still though, I can’t quite ditch the feeling that, because I didn’t do what everyone else was doing, I somehow failed.

It’s important to remember that we can’t all make all the donations all the time. It’s not realistic and it’s unfair to expect that of people. So, if you can afford to give, please do so. If you can’t, that’s okay too. If you want to get iced, go for it. If you want to stay dry, you have my permission.

It’s all good. You’re still good. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


9 thoughts on “Peer Pressure is Peer Pressure- Even When it’s for a Good Cause

  1. I have some very strong feelings about this whole ice bucket challenge.

    Weeks ago I got into a huge “issue” with my 15 year old stepdaughter, who has been staying with us this summer (she normally lives out of province). She wanted to do the ice bucket challenge and I initially said no. Then I changed my terms. I said I would wholeheartedly support her doing it IF she wrote a 1,000 word essay on ALS and the importance of charitable giving, AND donated her own money to ALS.

    She refused (and accused us of deliberately trying to ruin her life, basically). And then did the ice bucket challenge when she was visiting her grandmother for the weekend. She learned nothing about ALS and didn’t even make a donation. And I’ve gotta say, that really chapped my hide.

    Like you, I donate to charity and I feel that no one should feel pressured into donating to a specific cause, especially because it’s “trendy” right now. I donate to charities that are near and dear to me for personal reasons. I have limited funds like everyone else.

    I read an interesting article this morning that someone forwarded to me about this whole ice bucket thing, you might want to check it out if you haven’t seen it. It sums up my feelings quite nicely:

    • I LOVE that you were going to make her write an essay. I think it’s great that you were pushing her to think critically about the campaign. That’s really one of my (and clearly many others’) issues with the whole ordeal: the peer pressure aspect of the campaign doesn’t allow for any conversation to take place and it excuses people from asking why they should donate and what the disease and charity are all about.

      I also try my best to support charities that are relevant to me and my life. That doesn’t mean that we’re against finding cures and solutions to other charities, right? That’s what it seems to become though. And I definitely don’t appreciate when people rank the levels of importance of different causes. It’s all relative anyways.

      I’m feeling some real anxiety now that kids are back to school. It’s only a matter of time before we start being solicited to support various clubs, class trips, and team fundraisers. A girl can only buy so many boxes of chocolate covered almonds, eh? In the meantime I’m going to keep reminding myself that I’m under no obligation to give.

      And thanks for the link!

      • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

        I was the same as you when the challenge first started, uneasy and unsure….afraid to jump on the bandwagon right away “just because”…and I actually put off acting on the first few nominations I received until I learned more about the challenge and what it meant to ALS sufferers. The more I read about it, the more I could get behind the seeing the challenge as an overall good thing. It was getting attention and providing unprecedented funding to the cause. That said, whether people participated or not, or participated in their own way (like eating delicious ice-cream!), there was sense of awareness being generated that meant a great deal to those impacted by the disease. Those who said, meh – not for me, well that was fine too.

        The only thing that sort of irked me is when there was no reference to the disease in the postings (this was rare, at least among the challenges I’ve seen in my own news feed), or on the flip-side, when people complained that such a small number of people had the disease compared to other diseases (forgetting that a small number of cases usually translates into limited government funding and limited pharmaceutical options that are affordable). Using that logic we would never donate to any cause other than Heart Disease or Cancer.

        I also started to see that for some people, particularly young people, it was a way for them to show support and create awareness without having to donate (because let’s face it, you cannot donate to every charity out there) or by encouraging celebrities to fork over some dough. I also saw it offshoot into other events and other creative ways to create awareness. For example, a group of people on my Facebook organized a mini Baseball tournament for ALS NS.

        All that said, as someone who participated, I had the opposite fears that you did. As someone who typically resists following the mainsteam (which sometimes makes me a jerk, I am sure), I had nagging questions like “are people going to think what I am doing is stupid?” “does this make me look like a bandwagon jumper?” “am I really making a difference?” “what about the other charities?”. So no matter what you do, the little voice in your head will nag for one reason or another.

        If you or anyone is interested, this article and video really made the difference for me:

        I don’t agree with the title of the article per say…people are entitled to their opinions and should think critically before jumping in head first (Kony 2012, anyone?) but it was helpful to hear the perspective of someone who was both diagnosed with the disease at a young age and was caring for family members with the disease.

        Its times like these I wish I was a teacher and could have conversations like these with young people. Its a great lesson in critical thinking.

  2. I hear you girl! I was dreading my nomination too. Mostly because as the youngest of 4 kids I HATE doing something because everybody else is doing it. I specifically sought things out growing up that I could do that none of my siblings had done before. After my BFF nominated me I made my donation, did the challenge but made the video private so only she plus my immediate family and my nominations could see it. I love your ice cream bucket challenge!

    • I know! I feel like sometimes I come off as just being contrary when I choose not to participate in certain things but that’s not it! I’m not trying to be defiant. If I was, I surely wouldn’t spend so much time and effort stressing about how to please everyone and stay true to myself.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Jessi! That’s so interesting that you saw it from the opposite perspective. For the record, your video was super cute. 🙂

    I do agree with what you’re saying about using the challenge to raise awareness and increase participation for those who can’t necessarily afford to donate money. I’m actually more inclined to donate my time to causes I support– rather than money– so I definitely get the appeal of that aspect of the challenge.

    But to echo what you said, I think the value of the critical thinking component to any viral campaign cannot be underestimated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s