For years now, Facebook has been a great way to stay in contact with distant friends, stalk exes and look at vacation pictures of your office crush. But could the world’s biggest social network also be used to save lives? If Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has anything to say about it, it can and will.
Beginning Tuesday, Facebook users in the United States and the United Kingdom will be allowed to identify themselves as organ donors in their Timelines. Anyone who’s not an organ donor will have the option of clicking a few links to get registered. The hope is that people being notified of who is and isn’t a donor will start a healthy dialogue about America’s need for organ donors and what the average person can do to help.
“Facebook is really about communicating and telling stories,” Zuckerberg told ABC News. “We think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends. And that can be a big part of helping solve the crisis that’s out there. You just put in the state or country that you’re from, so that we can help link you to the official registries.”
While promoting organ donation in the world is a wonderful cause everyone can get behind, the Black community might find itself particularly ecstatic about Facebook’s latest venture. That’s because African-Americans have a lot of problems when it comes to organ donation. Despite the fact that Blacks are three times more likely to need a kidney transplant in their lifetime than whites, Blacks are also less likely to receive kidney transplants from living donors. Other studies show that a mistrust of the medical establishment inhibits all organ donations from Blacks, not just kidneys.
A study in Ohio of 1,283 subjects testing racial disparities in organ donation indicated that fewer African-American people signed donor cards — 39 percent of blacks, compared to 66 percent of whites.
There are now millions of Blacks on Facebook, with the site’s racial demographics mirroring America’s racial demographics. If even a few African-Americans can use the site to save their lives with a timely organ donation, it will have been worth it to waste countless hours browsing through the lives of every kid you didn’t like in high school.
Donate Life America, the group working with Facebook, told the Associated Press that more than 100,000 users had added their donor status by Tuesday night.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)