So…I finally got tagged in the Ice Bucket Challenge. It took awhile (in social media time), but it was inevitable. I had started to have this weird uneasy feeling as more and more videos filled up my news feed. Cynicism? Skepticism? Balking because it’s yet another trend that people will join in on, and then it will slowly die out? I don’t know, maybe all of those.
We’ve all seen campaigns go viral in the past (#Kony2012 or #bringbackourgirls, anyone?), and the results were a mixed bag. The intentions were positive, for sure, but sometimes these viral social media campaigns have done harm. People have joined in because
they we thought we were “raising awareness.” Oh, this complicated world of social media. It seems we can raise awareness at the speed of light…but then, are we actually doing anything?
As all of this was going viral, I was finishing up a fantastic book called Overrated: Are We More In Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? by Eugene Cho (you can find my full review here). The author challenges us to go deeper–to live more generously, sacrificially, and justly. His chapter on becoming an expert and not just have social media knowledge was especially challenging and insightful for me.
“We live in a social-media world, and you know what that means: Social media–minded people think in status updates and hashtags.
They think in tweets. #Cho-tastic
They compress ideas into 140 characters or less. #EducateYourself
They like videos, but short ones. In fact, six-second videos are long enough. Fifteen-second videos might be a stretch. Hashtags, anyone? If we are not careful, these snapshots of information and entertainment can trick us into believing we actually know something, or worse, that we’re actually doing something.
…Listen, if something matters to you, then go deep. Take the time, and make a commitment to be an expert in the areas of your passion. Don’t just say that you saw it on Wikipedia or heard it on NPR or read someone’s Facebook status.
…You can’t know everything about everything, but when you say that you care about something in particular, and feel called about it, this is where I say you have to dig deep, be deep. Take time to understand the issues, facts, complexities, and nuances. Without knowing even the basic background of what you care about, you can hurt the people you are trying to help.” (excerpts from Chapter 7: “Having More Depth than 140 Characters: Be an Expert”)
So I was in the middle of being challenged about the collective lack of depth on social media while all of this was going viral. How’s that for a little cognitive dissonance? In other words, my brain was exploding.
But one thing I’ve realized in the last couple of years is that I can’t be passionate about everything and I won’t be very effective at anything if I try to be. But, I can do small things in issues that are important. It’s been so helpful for me to recognize that distinction:
- There are things I’m passionate about, and I want to be an expert in those areas. I want to dig deep, to learn more, to be committed, and to dedicate myself to them.
- And there are many, many other things that are important and that tug at my heart. If an opportunity comes up to give or be involved in a small way, I can do that. I don’t have to be overwhelmed.
“I learned the painful way that the reality is you can’t do everything. We can be informed and educated about many things, but we can only go deep in a few things.” (Overrated, p. 127)
It’s true that I will probably not be dedicating myself wholeheartedly to learning about ALS and helping those who have it. But, this is important, and though there are constantly things vying for my attention, time, and resources, the Ice Bucket Challenge was one small way I could get involved. I have watched a couple of videos and read a couple of articles, and I want to share my support for people who are faced with this painful disease.
So I encourage you, if you take the Ice Bucket Challenge (or if you already have), consider whether helping people with ALS is something you’re passionate about. If it is, dig deep. Live generously. Become an expert and live it out.
If the Ice Bucket Challenge was a small way for you to get involved in something that mattered, to give to something that moved you, recognize it as that. Don’t be discouraged or overwhelmed by All The Things that come at us everyday, but be informed, give in small ways to important issues, and dig deep in your area of passion. Maybe in addition doing the Ice Bucket (and donating a few dollars or a lot of dollars 😉 ), you can take 30 minutes to read a couple of articles or watch a video about what it is like to live with ALS. Here are a few that I found helpful:
- What an ALS Family REALLY Thinks About the Ice Bucket Challenge–“If you would like to experience just a tiny corner of an ALS life, I have a list of Empathetic Experiences for you. These are things you can do to walk for just a mile in ALS shoes. If you try one, take a little time at the end to consider that people actually living with the disease have a million miles more to go.” Try one.
Beginnings of #icebucketchallenge: Reflections from a Charitable Cynic–some great thoughts from a friend of mine that I really resonated with
- The Last Ice Bucket Challenge You Need to See (video on Upworthy)
Pete’s Challenge–The Beginnings of the Ice Bucket Challenge
So, though my brain almost exploded, I decided to join in. This is my very small way of showing support to the ALS community, of sharing their message, and helping to raise funds.
Can you relate to feeling pulled in a million directions? What are you passionate about? Are there ways you want to go deeper, learn more, or become more involved in your area of passion?
I shared this post on Jack of All Trades Linkup.
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