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In May of 2012, Facebook began allowing users to make their organ donor status visible in their profiles. On the first day this was made visible to Facebook users, about 13,000 people in the U.S. registered to become organ donors - that’s 20 times more than the average number of daily registrations!
Today, in the U.S. alone more than 118,500 people are on the waiting list for organs and one name is added to the list every ten minutes. Unfortunately, an average of 18 people die each day waiting for an organ. Despite countless efforts organ donation rates have not grown, but the need for organ transplants has risen dramatically. New efforts are being implemented to boost organ donation – especially those through social media vehicles like Facebook.
New findings have shown that social media might be a highly effective tool for encouraging organ donation registration. The new Facebook initiative lets users add their organ donation status to their timeline for their friends and family to see. It has also directed people to the official organ donation registry websites of the state they live in. The Facebook initiative appeared to yield much higher rates of new organ donors compared to the usual rates resulting from efforts put forth by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Researches say that this boost in organ donors may result from the fact that people are more open to making decisions about sensitive or difficult topics when they are in an environment among their friends and family as opposed to the impersonal DMV. Of course knowing that your friends or family are doing something you’re interested in is always a big seller – it can open up the dialog and make participation feel easier to do because there is that comfort that comes from knowing that you’re part of “the group.”
The outreach for organ donors will not stop with Facebook. Many organizations have set their sights on other social media outlets like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, so keep a lookout! There are many great medical causes out there that you can be a part of - being an organ donor is one of many awesome ways to give back and help others.