A Cold, Hard Look | Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Spring 2015 | Thesis adviser: Joe Bob Hester | Honors level: With Highest Honors

A Cold, Hard Look: Focus Group Analysis of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

by Shannon Coy '15

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a social media craze that took over social media in the summer of 2014. It was vastly successful movement, raising over $100 million for ALS organizations and spreading awareness about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease of the brain and spinal cord. The reasons for the campaign’s success are very intriguing, and might offer practical knowledge for communication strategists looking to use social networking sites to spread messages and gather support. Through focus group sessions conducted at UNC-Chapel Hill, this study attempted to understand the movement in relation to college students. The study sought to discover college student’s general opinions towards the campaign, to learn what reasons motivated participation (or non-participation) in the challenge, and ideas about what factors contributed to the campaign’s virality. Results indicated that the social nature of the campaign gave way for not only its success, but also its primary critiques. Future research might consider how social activism online is changing the function of social networking sites and could have impacts on the types of users that remain online.



The Hussman School Honors Program is available to students wishing to pursue an original and substantial research or creative project under direct supervision of a faculty adviser during their senior year. Learn more at mj.unc.edu/Honors.