Friday 22 August 2014

Facebook: sharing statuses, links, photos… and organs

Last week Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social networking site has launched an initiative to help people share their organs. To explain, Facebook has introduced a new ‘status update’ that allows users to proudly share their intent to be an organ donor.  Within a few clicks, they are guided to the appropriate registry to make it official.

Forty-eight hours after Zuckerberg’s announcement, more than 100,000 people had indicated on their Facebook Timeline that they wished to be a donor when they die. Furthermore, the surge in online registry has been sustained, and US organ donor registries continue to be flooded with requests. The initiative has since been launched in Australia, and The Australian Organ Donation Authority has already recorded a significant spike in organ donor registrations.

A series of status updates on Facebook has yielded far better results in recruiting organ donors than many government and health industry appeals have in the past- why? The difference lies in trust. Edelman’s own research of trust indicates that many people put their faith in their family and friends, followed by members of society who display similar demographics as them – similar age, interests and socio economic status. It is not uncommon for many of a Facebook user’s online ‘friends’ to tick every one of these boxes. Considering that every Facebook user has (on average) 190 friends who trust them, it is not surprising that the support for this public commitment to organ donation has flourished so much. Facebook’s donor-registration strategy is unique in that it allows people to announce to their friends what they have done, and encourages them to become donors too.

This is not to say that every health campaign seeking support will find it via Facebook. In fact, the success of the Facebook donor initiative is yet to be seen (will the number of organ donations increase as much as the vocal support for them?).  However, this is a great example of how social media can unite and encourage people with a common belief and commitment to our society’s health.

Image source: http://www.valuewalk.com/2012/05/facebook-rolls-out-organ-donation-feature-in-australia/

- Amy Sanders