Digital Donors: Facebook Feature Helps Users "Share Life"

November 13, 2012

More than 400 health care professionals from Virginia and West Virginia got a glimpse into the future of organ donation at LifeNet Health's 4th Annual Organ Donation Collaborative on Tuesday.

The event, held at The Boar's Head Inn, highlighted the success of Facebook's "Share Life" tool. The feature, which was launched in May, allows Facebook users to share if they are an organ donor, when they became one and a personal story about their commitment. It also provides easy access to the organ donor registry.

"Being an organ donor is important to a lot of people," said Sarah Feinberg, director of policy communications for Facebook. "I think they also know, by starting that conversation and telling people they're an organ donor, they realize they're creating other organ donors."

About 425,000 Facebook users have declared their organ donor status on the site in the last six months. During that time, there has been an increase in the number of registered donors nationwide.

"We saw a marvelous uptick in donation when the Facebook organ donor initiative was launched," said Dr. Andrew Cameron, director of liver transplantation at Johns Hopkins University. "What we want to see is a virality to that and see communication continue."

Panelists noted, while registering to become an organ donor online is not a new concept, Facebook has knocked down barriers and opened up the conversation about the topic.

"Social media is a great way for young and old people to communicate now," said Cameron. "Any problem in our society that depends on better communication -- organ donation is certainly one of them -- can really benefit from using social media."

About 115,000 Americans are on a waiting list to receive an organ. Cameron said he hopes to see that number diminish over the next five to ten years.

Facebook has more than one billion users across the globe. The "Share Life" tool is available in 18 countries.

To put the organ donor registration process even closer to users' fingertips, Facebook is working on making the tool accessible on mobile devices.

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