I’m super nervous writing and posting this. I don’t feel like I can adequately or articulately express what I’m trying to say, or get the point across that I want to make. And I don’t think I have the right to add anything to the conversation. But something is still compelling me to say something and get some thoughts out on…well, screen, I guess.
Like most everyone, I was (am) incredibly saddened about Robin Williams. I didn’t really process it on Monday when I initially found out. Husband sent me a GChat message that I didn’t get for at least 3 hours saying something like “Oh wow, Robin Williams died.” What? Died? The Genie? Mrs. Doubtfire? No…what? How? Why? was my approximate reaction.
I read the tweet, initially, as a way to give some comfort to everyone who was sad or grieving. Like, it’s horrible and tragic it had to happen this way, but yes, now Robin Williams is free of the unimaginable, awful pain and anguish he must have been holding inside of him.
Now I don’t know. When something like this happens, how do we respect and memorialize the person without glamorizing or (unintentionally) condoning the act? Those who have called him a coward or selfish have been rebutted and the subjects of vitriol. How do we meaningfully not just talk about, but change the way we think about mental illness? What is the appropriate response from…any of us (news outlets, other celebrities, random nobodies like me) so we don’t offend anyone (apparently an impossible task)?
That’s Question One.
Next, the #icebucketchallenge. I’m sure you’ve seen this on Facebook or whatever. People get “challenged” by their friends and have to either dump a bucket of ice water over themselves or donate $100 to…I think ALS? (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease)?
First of all, I can’t stand it when people criticize charitable efforts. I always like to think that something is better than nothing. But these kind of Facebook activism campaigns (while a huge step up from the challenges to, say, chug a drink and post the video on Facebook, or eat a spoonful of cinnamon or something equally idiotic) leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. Husband participated in a group “challenge” earlier this week. He’s not entirely sure what the point was or what it was raising money or awareness for.
So I start to question — do these campaigns accomplish anything besides people showing off “look at my altruism!” on social media? Will anyone who participates in the ice bucket challenge think twice about ALS the next day, the next week, the next month? Will they ever be motivated to donate?
“Something is better than nothing” aside, I give a side-eye to “slacktivism” in general. The breast cancer campaigns where girls post the color of their bra or where they put their purse on Facebook, the Movember movement to prostate cancer — it all seems so empty and hollow to me. More like publicity stunts than actual change.
But is “something” still better than “nothing”?
I also resent the social pressure of the ice bucket challenge — honestly, if someone “challenged” me on Facebook, I would probably ignore it. I have no desire to make a spectacle or participate in a social media chain/meme/whatever. I would also resent the implication that I’m “required” to donate my time/money/awareness to this particular charity. How do you know I don’t already support it? Or I pledge a certain percentage of my income to another charity I find equally worthy of funding? Why do you, random Facebook friend, get to decide where I put my fundraising dollars?
I don’t mean to sound self-righteous. Question Two is an honest inquiry into to effectiveness of the ice bucket challenge.
Since I’ve been fortunate enough not to have been personally touched by suicide or ALS, I can’t speak for those who are. So I’m also hesitant about getting “offended” (which I’m not, really) on someone else’s behalf. I just…don’t really know what to think about these two issues.