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Facebook has added more than 200 million users in the last year, Twitter now boasts 100 million active users and Linkedln has 64 million users in North America alone.
Social media networks have become more popular with getting to know everything about a person but now Facebook is taking it another step further. Facebook now has an organ donor status that users can choose to post on their profile in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Facebook’s main objective in issuing this new addition to its vast network is not so your friends can know you more on a personal level, but to lower the total number of people that die in the U.S. and the UK due to waiting for an organ transplant. According to the U.S. Department of Health, nearly 7,000 people in the US alone die each year due to waiting for a donor.
The company announced a plan to encourage everyone on Facebook to start advertising their donor status on their pages.
Under the Facebook plan, members will be able to declare and update their organ donation status. The status will appear with other biographical information in a section called Health and Wellness, which includes, for example, updates on whether a person has recently lost weight or ever broken a bone.
But some representatives that encourage organ donations explain that people need to understand that posting their organ donation statues on Facebook does not close the deal. People need to also go to their state registry.
The ‘New York Times’ explained in an article that “people declaring on Facebook that they are organ donors could spur others to sign up at motor vehicle departments or online registries however, experts say Facebook could create an informal alternative to such registries that could, even though it carries less legal weight, lead to more organ donations. That is because a disclosure on Facebook could provide the evidence of consent that family members need when deciding whether to donate the organs of a loved one,” said Dr. Andrew M. Cameron, the surgical director of liver transplantation at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
This is not the first time Facebook has tried to use its network to address a social issue. Late last year it launched a service called “lifeline” that allows people to make contact with a suicide-prevention counselor or report someone through Facebook who they fear might be suicidal. That year, the company also introduced tools to discourage bullying and allow people to report episodes of bullying.
Overall, donation rates in the United States have been increasing steadily, with 43 percent of those 18 or older designating themselves as organ donors last year, according to Donate Life America. The median wait for a kidney nationally is about four years, according to data collected for the government by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. However, waiting lists are maintained on a regional basis, and in areas with high rates of organ failure and low rates of organ donation, the wait can extend much longer.
BJ Fogg, who studies how technology can change attitudes as director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University, explains that Facebook might persuade more people to become organ donors by simple “peer pressure”. If people see more of their friends and family members becoming donors they most likely will want to become one as well.
23-year-old Borough of Manhattan Community College student Luis Mendez said, “I think this will increase the number of donors and decrease the waiting list time because Facebook is pretty much at an all time high and most people follow it. It will be a way to persuade people to become organ donors versus years back.”
Most experts hope that this trend will happen so that being an organ donor will become a norm and more lives can be saved.