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Social media and organ donation

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Social media and organ donation

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I'll gladly confess from the off that I'm not a big fan of Facebook.  That said, the following story is a sign that it can be a source of value for society and rise above the banal things that so often take place on the site.

Getting enough organ donors has been a struggle ever since the process of organ donation itself became safe and common.  So the organ donation movement tried to tap into the huge scale of Facebook to try and get more people onto the organ register.

The plan was a simple one.  Back in May of last year people would be encouraged to publish their organ donor status to their timelines, whilst also sharing links to pages that let their friends update their own donor status.

The story is told in an article in the American Journal of Transplantation, and they reveal that the Facebook drive saw a 21 fold increase in organ donor registrations on the first day.  That saw over 13,000 register compared to the usual daily average of just over 600.

That's great, but there is a slight cautionary note to the story.  They found that they were unable to sustain the big jump they saw on the first day.  After a few weeks the number of new donors fell to around 1,200 per day.  Of course, that's still a cracking result and a big boost to donor numbers, but it does emphasise the difficulty of sustaining interest in the rapidly moving world of social media.

Organ donation is also a superb candidate for this kind of campaign because aside from registering, people won't have to then do anything until they are called upon to donate, at which point most donors won't have much say in the matter.  Charitable endeavours that require more regular contributions have seen much less return from using Facebook, and this has helped to coin the phrase slacktavism.

So whilst it's a lovely tale and one that shows Facebook isn't all bad, it still hasn't really convinced me that it's somewhere I'll be spending any more time in the 2nd half of 2013.



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