How Facebook’s fostering organ donation

By Anne Collier

One way to look at social media is as a global experiment in social action that is unprecedentedly social and spreadable and has nothing to do with geography. It’s a fascinating experiment. The latest “lab” is Facebook’s “Friends Saving Lives” program to support organ donation. Referring in the FB blog today to the “more than 114,000 people in the United States, and millions more around the globe … waiting for the heart, kidney or liver transplant that will save their lives” and the deficit of donors who can meet their need, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg cited medical experts as saying that “broader awareness about organ donation could go a long way toward solving this crisis.” They added that “we believe that by simply telling people that you’re an organ donor, the power of sharing and connection can play an important role.” So FB has enabled its users to show on their profiles (FB’s new term is now “timelines”) if they’re organ donors and “share you story about when, where or why you decided to become a donor. If you’re not already registered with your state or national registry and want to be.” The site includes a link to the official donor registry nearest that user. My ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid has step-by-step instructions in his blog post at, and here‘s FB’s video tutorial on YouTube.

Other examples of just the FB part of this social-action experiment helped tornado and tsunami survivors in Missouri and Japan, respectively. As Zuckerberg and Sandberg put it, in Missouri, users “tracked down and returned treasured mementos to families who thought they’d lost everything in the Joplin tornado” and in Japan, “people used Facebook to locate family and friends following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Smaller acts of kindness happen millions of times a day on Facebook.”

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