Facebook can share their status as an organ donor with a new Timeline feature, demonstrating the site’s massive potential for good.
Beyond sharing their status with friends, interested users can also find information about how to register as a donor on Facebook, and set the status to public so the medical community has access to the data.
Although raising awareness is the feature’s primary goal, its introduction highlights the social network’s capacity to facilitate lifesaving procedures, since it may not be long until the function actually connects people in need with available organs.
Users considering kidney, blood or bone marrow donation can actively seek people in need, while people are already organizing searches on Facebook for these willing donors, speeding up the process of locating life-saving connections.
For essential organs, such as the heart, lungs or liver, it gets trickier, but using Facebook is still possible. Although critically sick patients and their loved ones may not want to think about the possibility they will not pull through, if terminal patients set their organ donor status to public, the medical community may be able to harness the feature to find local organ donors when the time is right.
Already, people use informal Facebook networking to find willing donors, reaching out to their friends and extended networks. Socialblood.org, a Facebook app matching blood donors with rare types, also connects recipients and donors through the site.
This sort of feature illustrates Facebook can work for more serious purposes beyond “slactivism,” or a culture of clicking on altruistic links without actually doing anything. For example, Facebook engendered an upswing in people discussing and “liking” political articles and NGO pages about the relative merits of Kony2012, but it does not diminish real activism, and in this case, it provides a life-saving service sustained by its users’ integrity.
Facebook is a platform for social connectivity, and it can be abused through cyber-bullying and over-sharing — but others use it to organize protests, check in with loved ones in emergencies, contact authorities about crimes, and now hunt for critical health resources. The platform is not inherently good or bad, and its embrace of organ donation match-ups demonstrates how the site can positively impact society.