Facebook may have just solved a stubborn -- and heartbreaking -- public-health problem.
This morning, Facebook announced a new initiative:
Starting today, you can add that you're an organ donor to your timeline, and share your story about when, where or why you decided to become a donor. If you're not already registered with your state or national registry and want to be, you'll find a link to the official donor registry there as well.
First, it should be said: This is a canny PR move -- one that frames Facebook not just as a connector of people, but as an agent of empathy. The timing of the announcement itself, it's hard not to notice, is particularly auspicious (or suspicious?): Facebook is anticipating that its IPO documents will get approval this week, after which Zuckerberg and his fellow executives will begin actively selling the company to potential shareholders. So.
On the other hand, though: This is a canny PR move. The advent of the organ donor designation is an effort to publicize a problem, to use Facebook's increasingly enormous platform to get the word out about something whose social good is pretty much inarguable. The publicity is the point. And if goodwill accrues to Facebook in the process, well, great -- that will encourage the company to keep thinking of ways to marry its network's utility with net utility. It's not hyperbole to say that the organ donor option could see Facebook systematically saving lives -- and solving a conundrum that has long plagued not only patients and doctors, but social scientists.