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Facebook's Lifesaving Status Update

May 4, 2012

Facebook's new organ donation feature shows that online tools--particularly social networks--can be leveraged for the common good.

Over 100,000 people declared their intention to be organ donors on Facebook on Tuesday, using a feature developed with the nonprofit Donate Life America. That declaration of intent is a critical first step, as it informs families of an individual's wishes, ABC news reports. But many went further: "among those 100,000 users, 10,000 had linked through Facebook to sign up directly with their state organ donation registries," according to ABC News.

The United States faces a chronic organ shortage--18 people die every day waiting for a kidney, heart, or other organ--and getting more people to sign up as donors has long been a challenge. The Facebook option has two advantages: it makes signing up very easy (you can do it from your home computer), and it shows you that everyone else is doing it. Sometimes, peer pressure can be a good thing.  

What other tough decisions could online social networks help nudge us into making? Should people be encouraged to share whether they're saving for retirement, eating right, registered to vote, or recycling? Or are people sharing too much personal information online already?

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