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The Positive Power of Social Media: Facebook Encourages Organ Donation Awareness

The power of social media has been recognized for quite some time now. And while the positive impact of social media is undeniable, its darker side is often highlighted in media headlines. Cited for encouraging bullying, oversharing personal details and publically humiliating friends, family and even exes—Facebook is often the scapegoat for negative online behavior.

But yesterday that changed, at least temporarily. Facebook launched an initiative to harness social media and social pressure for the betterment of society…to save lives.

Yesterday, Facebook announced that users can now post their organ donation status on their personal Facebook Timeline page. The potential of this initiative is huge. According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, it “has the power to save lives.”

As noted in a New York Times article, the federal government’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network states that 114,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. Last year, only 28,535 transplants were performed, creating a vast divide between those in need and organs harvested for transplant.

But is it a divide that can be easily closed? Can the influence and power of social media be activated to encourage not just the recognition of a decision to donate but also—and equally as important—the conversations in homes, with family members and loved ones, about the decision? This element is critical, as is formal donor registration.

Much like a “single” relationship status on Facebook doesn’t guarantee that someone is actually single, noting your organ donation decision on Facebook doesn’t guarantee your status as an organ donor. You still need to register and legally signify your choice. You can register when you renew your driver’s license or online with Donate Life America.

Is Facebook’s initiative alone enough to eliminate the unmet need for organ donation? Probably not.

Will the initiative create a swell of attention around a critical, life-saving issue, and generate positive peer pressure that can drive awareness like no other vehicle in the world? Absolutely.
Kudos to Facebook for bringing attention to a topic that is too often avoided, for encouraging conversations about how to save lives in the face of death, and for diminishing awkwardness around a difficult topic of discussion. 

Regardless of anyone’s very personal decision to register as an organ donor, there is great beauty in harnessing the positive power of social media.

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Stacey Holifield

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