Throughout 2014, social media was awash with videos of people pouring buckets of ice and water over their heads. The internet craze took the world by storm, with over 17 million people posting their videos online in an effort to raise money for ALS. These videos were seen by an incredible 440 million people worldwide, and raised over $115 million USD.
Dismissed as "slacktivism" by some, the viral challenge has just proven its worth in a big way.
Today, the ALS association announced that the Ice Bucket Challenge has funded a dramatic scientific breakthrough — researchers have identified a new gene contributing to the progressive neurodegenerative disease.
Speaking to the BBC, Lucie Bruijn of the ALS Association said that the “sophisticated gene analysis that led to this finding was only possible because of the large number of ALS samples available."
Originally criticized as a stunt, the ice bucket challenge took off, with a reported one in six Brits taking part. Some of the world's biggest celebrities got in on the action as well, helping to raise much needed money for the often underfunded disease.
So what is ALS? Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS as it’s known by, is a rapidly progressive disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. In the UK, ALS is known as Motor Neurone Disease and scientist Stephen Hawking is probably the best-known person with the disease. It’s fatal, and although there is no cure, this new discovery will allow scientists to create a gene therapy to help treat patients in the future.
As the way we interact with each other through social media evolves, viral campaigns like the ice bucket challenge are now becoming the norm. But this goes to show that with a strong message and a worthwhile purpose, these campaigns can become a force for good. This discovery was only possible through the collective actions of millions of people from across the planet. Who says social media can't change the world?
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