Facebook: The New Red Cross?

There’s one thing that you have probably never seriously attributed to Facebook—social reform.

That’s right. Social reform.  Forget your soapboxes and your flyers; Facebook is looking to not only dominate your time spent on the computer, but it’s also making what appears to be a sincere effort to help make our world a better place.

Mark Zuckerberg announced on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Facebook is planning to implement the ability to update your online profile with an organ donor status. Demand for organ transplants far outstrips the supply of organs donated in this country. People die every year due to the long waiting periods on transplant lists.  This latest update to Facebook is an attempt to try and help to fix this problem.

The logic runs something like this: people usually decide whether or not to be organ donors while at the Department of Motor Vehicles, an unhappy place at best. Very few people are willing to sit there and seriously contemplate the possibility of their imminent demise when all they want to do is get out of that building as quickly as possible and suck down a breath of fresh air.

Facebook hopes to increase the number of registered organ donors in two ways.

First, by removing the choice to a more stress-free environment and essentially turning it into a decision that, instead of requiring a trip to the DMV, can essentially be made or changed at any time, the people behind your favorite social networking website hope to remove some of the stigma of the organ donor status by making it easier to go about obtaining it.

Second, Facebook is counting on the tried and true power of peer pressure. The reasoning is that if you log onto your Facebook profile and see updates about your friends becoming organ donors or perhaps see statistics about how many lives have been saved by Facebook users who used the site to indicate their organ donor status, you may be persuaded to lend more consideration to becoming an organ donor.

From what information I’ve seen about this upcoming change, Facebook is serious about making a change in people’s lives, and people that monitor organ donor status and transplant wait lists view this change as very promising.  Ideally, so many new people would become organ donors that the supply would finally outweigh the demand, and deaths from lack of a suitable organ donor would decrease dramatically, if not end entirely.

I think that this is a fantastic effort on the part of Facebook and any others who had a part in conceiving this idea.  Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool.  It represents a way of reaching out to people of such scope and magnitude as to be unheard of prior to the present day, second maybe to television and radio in their respective times.  Facebook often gets a bad rap, being viewed as a time-sink or a source of spying from both the government and prospective employers, so it’s nice to see that at least some of the people behind the behemoth social networking site have people’s best interests at heart.

The possibility for social reform and saving lives in this one measure alone is incredible, and I hope to see Facebook making many similar efforts for the betterment of mankind as a whole in the very near future.

Spencer Grimes is a fourth-year English major. He can be reached at sgrimes@uci.edu.