x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Married life: The click of a mouse can make a big difference

I'm proud to bring my daughter up in a world where people making small gestures can make a big difference.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, someone you know – or someone famous you’ve heard of – has poured a bucket of ice water over their head.

The entertaining videos have been popping up all over social media, from A-list celebrities to just about anyone with access to Wi-Fi and a bucket.

A few short weeks ago, I’d never heard of ALS. But then my newsfeed began to look like scenes from an icy water park. I watched friends and acquaintances all over the world pour buckets of ice over their heads (and laughed like a hyena every time). When I could catch my breath, I Googled ALS and stopped laughing pretty quickly.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes the neurons that control voluntary muscle movement to rapidly degenerate and eventually die. It attacks the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, causing them to degenerate quickly ­until paralysis sets in and then death.

It’s a horrible, horrible disease I knew nothing about, but the Ice Bucket Challenge changed that.

And then, as is the case with all popular things that take on a life of their own, the criticism set in.

The viral movement began receiving its share of labels as being another example of “slactivism” or “click-­tivism” – whereby people proudly wear the “activist” nametag by using hashtags and sharing videos instead of actually doing something.

Clicktivists are criticised for not taking action in a meaningful, tangible way. For example, during last year’s Unicef online campaign in Sweden, the organisation noted: “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.”

It’s messages such as this that are telling the world that raising awareness through a mouse click isn’t enough.

Or is it?

The viral Ice Bucket Challenge is showing just how powerful a tool social media really is. With a 3,500 per cent increase in donations to the ALS Association – from the US$2.8 million (Dh10.3m) received during the same period last year – the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $100 million in the past month.

Likes can translate into dollars and clicks can make a difference. Every little bit does count.

What a beautiful message for Mr T and me to teach our daughter. How glad I am to know that she is growing up in a world where people are willing to pour ice over their heads to make a difference in their own small way.

I think about how the little things in life – my mother’s scent, my daughter’s laugh, my husband’s embrace – are the things that make life worthwhile.

They may be “little” things, but they are the small clicks that bring big issues to light.

So, instead of choosing to scoff at the videos that populate my newsfeed, I will applaud them. A little is better than none and this is a message I can easily drum into Baby A. I know that many of the people dumping ice over their heads may not donate to the cause, but the fact that they took time out of their day to take part in something that was fun, silly, meaningful and raised awareness for a worthy cause is nothing to scoff at.

Their small click is making a big difference.

Hala Khalaf is a freelance writer in Abu Dhabi