5 Viral Videos And Memes That Actually Helped The World
Say, you're on the internet, right? You like the memes and the virals videos and such? Yeah you do. They're funny, and funny things tend to be funny. But did you know that some of these viral shenanigans are actually making the world a better place, and not just a more vapid, brain-dead place that stares at its phone during conversations as though other people didn't actually exist? It's true! And I'll show you proof, if you'll just step this way ...
The Ice Bucket Challenge
Centuries ago, in the summer of 2014, you couldn't send an unsolicited dick pic on the internet without running afoul of the ice bucket challenge. Believe me, I get them all the time. The challenge was the biggest thing in the land of cyber fun times since sliced e-bread. The videos were fairly simple -- someone gets a bucket of ice water dumped on them (ostensibly to promote awareness of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), the ice bucketee presents a challenge to a different person to do the same and help raise donations, and the video gets shared. Numerous average Joe's got damp for the cause, as did celebrities like Will Smith, The Rock, and maybe even Shailene Woodley, though she probably used urban foraged ice and plum wine from a vintage Amish bucket made from reclaimed lobster shells.
Viral videos may be a dime a dozen these days, but that doesn't mean they're all useless crap. The ALS Association attributed a mind-blowing $100 million in donations to the campaign's efforts. And that's just one of the groups that benefited, with a handful of similar organizations also receiving tens of millions. This was far and away a fluke, as my attempts to get a fudge bucket challenge to help me raise money for an artisanal ham shop have mostly fallen on deaf ears for the past two decades.
Now, raising all that money is great, and 99.9 percent of the time, that's where a normal feel-good fundraiser story would end. But if there's one thing I despise, it's normalcy (and also pants). Turns out all that money did more than provide endless bobbleheads for office execs at the charities that received the funds. The University of Massachusetts Medical School actually discovered the gene responsible for causing ALS, and they attributed that success to the fundraising effort providing them with the resources they needed to do so. An internet fundraiser actually made a real difference. For real! The internet did that! You know, the awful one!
The hope is that this newly identified gene will assist in treating the disease, perhaps leading toward a cure one day, or at the very least making it less of a dick hole.
Remember Success Kid, that little tyke of a meme who looks like Patton Oswalt went through the telepod from The Fly with Verne Troyer? Sure you do. Everyone loves his can-do attitude, even if the story behind the actual photo was that he just tried to eat a fistful of sand and didn't like it much, which probably does qualify as some kind of success according to current definitions. But that's neither here nor there.
He definitely takes the gold in the Didn't Attempt To Digest Sand Awards. Bravo.
The meme spread like the jaws of a starving man leaping on a nourishing back-alley ham casserole, and Success Kid's family licensed the image for shirts and posters and ad campaigns. The kid was being sold on merchandise in Hot Topic, and they don't do that for just anyone. Life seemed good for Success Family -- except for the kid himself, who was rather embarrassed to be associated with the whole thing, but hey, life is full of ups and downs and sand.
Another one of those downs reared its ugly head in 2015, when Success Kid's dad, Justin Girner, needed a kidney transplant. He'd been on daily dialysis for six years, which is like watching Young Sheldon every day for six years. The family started crowdfunding to pay for the surgery, hoping to get the $75,000 they'd need to cover associated costs. That's a pretty steep proposition for anyone, and more than a family whose only claim to fame is "includes kid who doesn't like to eat dirt" has on hand. Lucky for Girner, success is in his blood. When his wife decided to make it known that Success Kid was part of the family, they used the meme to spread the word, and the internet's endless love for all things that can be shared and understood in a single image on a 3x5" screen did the rest. The end result was more than $100,000 raised and a successful transplant.
Since Dad no longer needed to spend hours every day hooked up to machines, cursing his inability to access the cool parts of the Matrix, the family was able to look ahead to doing things most of us take for granted. And one of those things was just heading out on a vacation, which is pretty awesome.
Making The Bus Monitor Cry
Back in 2012, school bus monitor Karen Klein was having what we in journalistic circles refer to as a "fucky day." Her job was to sit on a bus and make sure none of the precious little goblins started doing heroin or exploding or whatever it is that kids do when their only supervision is a 68-year-old woman trapped in a very specific section of a bus. Unfortunately for her, the seventh-graders on the bus decided to be merciless little shitheel chucklefucks (which is, statistically speaking, the state that every seventh-grader exists in for 60 percent of their day). With one student filming, a group of kids threatened and harassed Klein, causing her to break down in tears as they taunted her about her weight and her family killing themselves. Did any of the kids know her eldest son had actually taken his own life years earlier? In all honesty, who cares? The kids suck either way.
Because the bullies were such a stellar blend of assholes, the video was posted online. But when the internet doesn't like something, it bites back, and the kids were removed from school and forced to do community service, while Karen was offered a fun family vacation. That's nice, right? Barely scratches the surface.
A man Klein had never met before saw the video and, remembering how he was bullied as a child, started an Indiegogo campaign to help her out. He thought that if he could raise a few thousand dollars for her so that she could do something with her family, it would be a well-earned reward for what she'd had to put up with. And if she didn't want that, maybe she could invest in a bus-mounted catapult to launch future bullies into a land far, far away. And he did raise a few thousand dollars. A few hundred thousand dollars. See how I set you up there and then pulled the rug out? Fuck yeah!
By the time the campaign ended, Klein was presented with a check for $703,000, minus some fees. It was enough to allow her to retire -- a decision she said she still had some difficulty making, even after having to endure other people's monstrously asstatsic children.
Band Aid 30
Here's a pickle we've all found ourselves in: A wily virus has invaded our insides and is making our asses bleed profusely. How do we get the word out to others and maybe raise some money to help stop all this blood from leaking out of all these holes? If you're Bob Geldof, you dust off the old chestnut that is the charity supergroup Band Aid and rework one of the most terrible songs in history. For those in the dark, Band Aid was basically a parade of artists that got together in 1984 to help combat poverty in Ethiopia. The original lineup included musicians like Bono, Phil Collins, and 50 percent of Culture Club.
When Ebola was scaring people even more than U.S. politics back in 2014, Band Aid 30 came together with a tweaked version of the sappy "This is why I hate being in malls at Christmas" song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" The song is two shakes of a lamb's tail away from being a face-palming mix of uninspired, desperately ignorant, somewhat racist, and just plain shitty. But it had One Direction in it, so people liked it, and man did it raise money.
Now, you might expect a song featuring Ed Sheeran, Seal, and Ellie Goulding to do well, but keep in mind that this thing raised nearly $1.5 million in about five minutes. And it's awful, just so goddamn awful. It's so awful that a guy who literally had Ebola called it "cringeworthy." Imagine how much this has to suck if it's to help deal with Ebola, a disease that liquefies your insides and turns you into a blob of bloody pain, and a guy who actually survived it tries to listen to the song, gets about halfway through, and says, "Nah, fuck this. I cannot deal with this."
It's a clear testament to the giving spirit of humanity that even one of the worst things ever recorded can inspire charity if the cause is good enough.
The Large Mechanical Hand
Most people have a tendency to get drawn in by any video which depicts someone making something you've never seen before. It's nothing to be ashamed of. We all like shiny, new things.
One such video caught the attention of Richard Van As. In it, Ivan Owen. a dude who just made random gadgets in his garage and sold them on Etsy, showed off a cool-looking giant mechanical hand he'd created for shits and giggles. It was more shit than giggle in Van As' view, since he was missing four of his fingers due to a workplace accident, and a hand like the one Owen was demonstrating looked like the sort of thing he could use. So he sent Owen a message. And unlike most messages people send on YouTube, I imagine it included almost no death threats.
Fast-forward a few months, and Van As and Owen had perfected a design for a prosthetic hand which could be 3D-printed. This would make affordable prosthetics for people missing fingers -- like a five-year-old boy they'd met named Liam who was born without any -- way more attainable.
The hand, which is fully functional and capable of gripping things as the wearer flexes muscles in their arms to control it, costs only $15O. That's significantly less than most similar prosthetics, and you'd imagine that the people that came up with it would try to use their invention to garner a sweet payday and an office with free snacks. That's what wealthy people do, right? Make buttloads of money and put a few Snickers in a building? Owen and Van As gave away the design schematics for their hand for free, the result of which has been a remarkable boom in the prosthetics industry. Other individuals and companies began playing with the design, and because it's so cost-effective, many can actually be given away for free. A volunteer group called e-NABLE grew from this as a way of matching those missing limbs with those who could provide matches for their needs as each individual requires slightly different design capabilities.
As more people got involved, designs evolved and the $150 schematic actually gave way to even cheaper ones, some going for as low as $35. Eventually, they could be constructed with bits and pieces that snapped together, and some were produced to look like superhero limbs with Spider-Man or Captain America motifs. So not only do you have a replacement for a missing body part, but you're also technically a member of the Avengers.
Hands are being built specifically for rock-climbing, bowling, playing musical instruments, and even enhanced gripping with extra thumbs. An entire industry that left people waiting years to afford new advances is now a thing of the past.
Follow Ian on Twitter, where things are more bacterial than viral.
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