Doing Good: Is the ALS Icebucket Challenge truly good?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Doing Good

Muppets Kermit the Frog takes the ALS Ice Bucket challengeNOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Please welcome back guest writer Gayle Campbell. I’ll tell you more about Gayle at the close of today’s column. Here is the first of her five parts on “Doing Good” …

By now, you’ve certainly seen it exploding across your social media feeds: Friends, dumping buckets of ice water on their heads, and challenging their friends to do the same. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a social campaign designed to raise awareness and funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gerhig’s disease), a fatal neurodegenerative disease.

Celebrities from former President George W. Bush to Bill Gates to Lady Gaga have all partaken in the challenge, which has brought in over $53 million in donations for the ALS Foundation, compared to $2.2 million they raised in the same time period last year.

The marketing seems brilliant: Succumb to peer pressure to prove your altruism, or face judgment from your peers.

And it’s clearly working: Facebook announced last week that more than 28 million users were talking about the challenge and 2.4 million Ice Bucket Challenge videos were shared on Facebook between June 1 and August 17.

But it’s this same logic that’s caused the campaign to be criticized by some as “Slacktivism”—online engagement that requires very little time, effort or money, offering participants the satisfaction of doing good without actually making much of an impact. One blogger even argues that participation in a feel-good cause like the Ice Bucket Challenge might lead one to compensate by doing fewer good actions in the future, an effect known as moral self-licensing.

Criticism aside, it’s hard to argue with the over 2,000% increase in donations to the ALS Association, which will be used to fund global research for treatment and a cure for the disease that affects approximately 30,000 Americans.

What do you think? We want to hear from you!

Have you participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge? If so, what motivated you to get on board?
If you’ve avoided the campaign, why?
Do you think the challenge promotes activism, or “slactivism”?






You know what to do! Use those blue-“f” Facebook icons and other social-media buttons to invite friends to read along with you this week!


Long-time readers of OurValues may recall that Gayle Campbell once was Media Director of our online project. A University of Michigan grad, today, she’s a professional communicator in Washington D.C., working in the fields of international development and exchange. Gayle occasionally returns to write on millennial matters, social justice issues and doing good. Click here to enjoy her earlier columns in OurValues. (If you click here, you’ll see today’s column at the top of the new page, but you can then scroll down to read 10 more).

Free Agent Nation: Scented Jeans? ‘Ficks’ a hangover? High-tech bookmark?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Free Agent Nation

Fragrance Jeans

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER—This week, we’re spanning generations and perspectives in welcoming guest writers Kathy Macdonald and Miles Grofsorean. In this five-part series, they are reporting on some very creative ideas from entrepreneurs. Here is their third column …

America isn’t the only Free Agent Nation, and today we’re taking you on a quick trip around the world to show you three more products we’d like you to rate—and tell friends (via the blue-“f” Facebook icons or envelope-shaped email icons) if you think these ideas are worth sharing.

Yesterday, we looked at Serviceable ideas. Today, we focus on the second “S”—Seductive ideas.


Portuguese fashion brand, Salsa, has created scented jeans.

The pants, made from a blend of cotton and elastane, are embedded with microcapsules of fragrance. According to the manufacturers’ sales pitch, many jean enthusiasts believe that jeans are best left unwashed to protect their style and texture. Obviously, this can lead to undesirable side effects, which prompted Salsa to develop the product. They claim their fragrances will last up to 20 washes, and you can choose from 5 different scents: apple, blueberry, strawberry, lemon and orange.


Ficks Cocktail fortifierIf scented jeans are designed to keep young people smelling sweet even if they socialize night after night—a California company has created Ficks to take care of another problem associated with too much partying.

It’s a hangover solution, an “all natural cocktail fortifier” that was created in tandem with Fortitech, the company that formulated Vitamin Water. Their products are based on “years of research on scientific studies related to alcohol metabolization, liver health and medical causes of hangovers.”

Even Amazon now sells Ficks and so far the six reviews posted on the product page are voting 2 to 1 in favor of Ficks. There are four 4- and 5-star reviews vs. only two 1- and 2-star reviews; no one is wishy washy about this one—not a single 3-star review.


Dancing the night away? Worried about hangovers? Well, millions of people aren’t tempted in either direction. In fact, a Brazilian company is launching a small high-tech device that encourages—more reading.

Tweet For a Read is a campaign launched by a Brazil-based Penguin-Companhia publishing house. They recently developed a computerized bookmark with a WiFi-enabled computer, timer and light sensor. When the book is closed, the light sensor sets off the timer. When it’s been too long since you last opened the book, the bookmark (which is linked to your Twitter account) will notify the author’s Twitter account, which in turn will send you a reminder to continue reading the book in question. The tweets are actually pre-written by the author, or are phrases taken from the book you’re reading.

Here’s a short video about this product:

PENGUIN BOOKS | Case Tweet For a Read from Rafael Gonzaga on Vimeo.

Like this idea? Will it succeed? You could help to insure its success simply by telling friends.

PLEASE, leave a comment below—and share this series with friends by clicking on the blue “f” Facebook icons or the small envelope shaped email icons.

United America, Core Value 8: Pursuit of Happiness

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series United America

Coca Cola Great Happyfication animated filmAre you seeking happyfication?

You might find it in “The Great Happyfication,” an animated short film that’s one of Coca-Cola’s “Happiness Factory” series. It’s depicts a happy land devoted to producing and delivering happiness “one bottle at a time.” Since 1923, the company has associated the consumption of its cola drink with enjoyment, pleasure, and happiness.

Does a bottle of Coke make you happy?

The pursuit of happiness is one of America’s 10 Core Values, as I document in United America. It’s one of the principles enshrined in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Americans have pursued happiness with a passion, but often it has proved elusive. When the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville traveled the country in the 1800s, he observed that many Americans were restless and anxious despite possessing ample material goods.

These days, happiness is a serious field of study. There are happiness psychologists and economists. In my new book United America, I discuss the practical advice proffered by happiness psychologists like Sonja Lyubomirsky and the father-son team of Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener.

Today in our series on the 10 core values, we are exploring Core Value 8: “Pursuit of Happiness”—“enjoyment, leisure, pleasure.”

Take a look at Coke’s video and see what you think … (If you see no video screen in your version of this story, try clicking on the headline to reload the column.)

What’s your opinion of marketing campaigns that link happiness and products?

For you, what is the secret of happiness?

Body Weight: Are eating habits getting better or worse?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Body Weight
CLICK on this chart of Gallup results to visit Gallup's website and read the whole report.

CLICK on this chart of Gallup results to visit Gallup’s website and read the whole report.

QUICK: Did you eat healthy all day yesterday?

Got your answer? Then read on …

If you did eat healthy yesterday, your chances of being overweight are lower than if you said no. Not eating healthy is a major factor linked to obesity, as we discussed in Part 3 of this week’s series. So, trends in eating habits are important to consider.

Is that trend up or down this year? Our eating habits have worsened over the course of this year compared with 2012, according to Gallup. This year, Americans are also eating fewer servings of fruits and vegetables per week, compared to last year.

Fast food is still popular among Americans, says Gallup. About 80% of Americans eat at fast-food restaurants at least once a month. About 20% eat there several times a week or every day.

What percent of American say they never eat at fast-food restaurants? Only 4%. At the same time, three of four Americans (76%) say that fast food is “not too good” or “not good at all for you.” Only 2% say is it “very good” for you. Among different age groups, young Americans (ages 18–29) eat fast food more frequently than any other age group. As people age, they are less likely to eat fast food.

Fast food is cheap—but Americans with the lowest incomes are the least likely to buy fast food. Americans with annual incomes of $75,000 or more are actually more likely to eat fast food, compared to Americans in the lowest income group.

Have your eating habits improved or worsened this year?

Are you are a habitué of fast-food restaurants?

What is your prescription for healthy eating?

Extreme Generosity: Do you give anonymously?

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Extreme Generosity
Salvation Army red kettle

THE SALVATION ARMY KETTLE first appeared in 1891 in San Francisco, when a crab pot was hung at the Oakland ferry landing for donations to fund a Christmas dinner for the poor. The custom of anonymously dropping pure gold into the kettles was first spotted in 1982 in Crystal Lake, Illinois. In the 30 years since then, anonymous gold donations have ranged from early American gold coins to a gold ring complete with a diamond to a pair of gold molars dropped in a kettle in York, Pennsylvania. Photo by the Salvation Army.

Hospitals, museums, schools, and other institutions around the country bear the names of their generous benefactors. Inside these institutions, different places—rooms, auditoriums, and public areas—display the names of other donors. Without such generosity, these institutions wouldn’t thrive, survive—or even exist.

But are these examples of extreme generosity?

Some donors give money anonymously—exemplars of extreme generosity. In 2010, Baylor University received an anonymous gift of $200 million. In 2013, The Community Foundation for Muskegon County (Michigan) received an anonymous gift of $9 million.

Since 1982, mysterious donors around the country have dropped gold coins, diamonds, and jewelry into the Christmas kettles of the Salvation Army.

What makes anonymous giving extreme generosity? It’s that the benefactor does not expect to derive any ancillary publicity benefits from the donation.

The main argument against anonymous giving is that it reduces giving by subsequent givers. This is a long-held assumption. Two British researchers put it to the test by analyzing thousands of donations on behalf of runners in the 2010 London Marathon. What they found ran counter to conventional wisdom. Anonymous giving actually increased subsequent donations. The researchers speculated that anonymous giving signals the quality of a charity because anonymous givers don’t receive any personal reputation benefits.

Perhaps Maimonides, a renowned medieval rabbi, philosopher, and physician, had it right: One of the highest forms of charity is giving anonymously.

Have you been an anonymous giver?

Is giving anonymously a truer form of charity?

Will the PlayStation 4 (PS4) keep you from going to church?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Media Sex & Violence
Battlefield 4 screenshot from PS4 PlayStation 4

BATTLEFIELD 4 screenshot from the new PlayStation 4, by Sony.


I’ve got a parent-to-parent question: Will that new PlayStation 4 that your teen or 20-something is so eager to bring home this week keep him (or her) from going to church?

Does that sound like an odd question for OurValues? Let me explain: First, it’s true that most teens and 20-somethings don’t regularly go to church, or synagogue, or mosque. And, there are many reasons they avoid organized religion.

This week, we are going to discuss a series of columns written by David Briggs, one of America’s top religion newswriters. In these pieces, David has been reporting on research that links violent or sexually explicit media with a drop in spirituality and attendance at worship.

As we start, don’t dismiss this series as an utter “downer.” Here’s a hint about our fifth and final column on Friday: That day, I will tell you about some more hopeful research-based news in David’s reporting about young people, families and faith. Meanwhile, if you’re a gamer reading this column—we want to hear from you, too. Millions of Americans play these games and watch explicit movies. We hope to see some comments sticking up for gaming and media freedom.

Whatever your perspective, the research data David Briggs is uncovering should be fascinating to everyone concerned with these issues. Today, we’ll start with this link to David’s latest column in which he writes: “Researchers are finding many young adults appear to struggle with the radically different messages of ‘Machete Kills’ or ‘Grand Theft Auto’ and the Sermon on the Mount.”

At midnight on Friday, the long-awaited, super-powerful PlayStation 4 went on sale and, no, at the moment there is no “Grand Theft Auto” available for this system. (“Grand Theft Auto” is the most notorious—and most popular—of the video games in which players “win” by committing crimes in the fictional world.)

But the PlayStation 4 is selling plenty of other ultra-violent games. Sony boasts that its new “Resogun” puts “a diverse array of devastating weapons” in your hands. And in “Battlefield 4,” Sony proudly proclaims you can “immerse yourself in the glorious chaos of all-out war.”

TODAY, please, tell a friend about this series. In the next four parts of this series, I will link to more of David’s reports on research into these issues. (To tell friends, use the blue “f” Facebook icons or the small envelope-shaped Email icons.)

AND, PLEASE, tell us: Are you concerned about violent video games?

Are you a gamer? Can you add a positive comment?

Have you seen any efforts in your congregation to discuss video games?

Online Dating: Desperate or smart?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Online Dating
Click on this chart from the new Pew report to visit Pew's website and, if you wish, download the entire 57-page report as a PDF.

PERCENTAGES AGREEING WITH THESE 3 QUESTIONS. Click on this chart from the new Pew report to visit Pew’s website and, if you wish, download the entire 57-page report as a PDF.

Matchmaking isn’t new, but computers and the Internet introduced technology to the age-old quest to find a partner. The marriage of technology and romance spawned hundreds of online dating sites, services, and mobile apps.

Have you used any of them?

Has your experience been good or bad? I don’t have any personal experience with online dating so I’m counting on you to chime in!

Eleven percent of all Americans are “online daters,” having used an online dating service or a mobile app, according to a new Pew poll. Almost four of ten Americans (38%) who are currently single and looking for a partner say they have tried online dating. What questions do you have about online dating?

Here are a few:

Do online daters actually go on dates?

Two-thirds of online daters (66%) do, according to Pew. In 2005, when Pew first asked about online dating, only 43% said that they went on an actual date.

Do online daters ever find that special someone?

About one of four online daters (23%) said that they married or entered into a long-term relationship with someone they met via a mobile app or online dating service.

Are online daters desperate?

About two of ten (21%) Internet users say that, yes, only desperate people resort to online dating services or apps.

Is online dating a smart way to meet people?

A majority of Americans (59%) say that online dating is a good way to meet people. Almost as many (53%) believe that you can find a better match by using online dating services or apps.

Does online dating keep people from settling down?

Three of ten Americans say it does, according to Pew: online dating “keeps people from settling down because they always have options for people to date.”

Are you an online dater?

If so, what’s your experience been like?

Do you know someone who is an online dater? What’s been their experience?

PLEASE, invite friends to read along with you and discuss this week’s series. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icons or the envelope-shaped email icons.