Social media blurs line between frivolous and serious

May 02, 2012

I guess this a great thing: Facebook will now allow users to enroll as organ donors.

Organ donation is one of the easiest and most important decisions a person can make. It gives life, hope and comfort.

More than 112,000 people are in waiting lists for organs, and 18 people die every day for want of a transplant.

But — Facebook? What’s next, awarding power of attorney through Pinterest?

So the woman who is playing a happy round of Farmville can make end-of-life decisions for her broiler chickens and herself on the same screen.

There’s no law saying that complex medical decisions and social media don’t mix — I’m sure that somewhere you can “like” your local methadone clinic — but doesn’t there need to be a line somewhere between the serious and the frivolous?


As I understand it, you’ll be able to post your organ-donor status on your profile, which could be good if it becomes something of a badge of honor and encourages enrollees.

But, as usual with these things, this will only be the beginning. Before long, you’ll be able to view someone’s organ-donor status, belly-button configuration and blood type.

But there’s a limit to what medical information I want to know and want other people to know. If we start listing every last toe fungus on our walls, we’re not too awfully far from Social Disease Media.

And while I fully concur with organ donation, I don’t like the idea of peer pressure forcing you into doing the right thing. Heaven help the poor little checker at the supermarket who asks moi if I care to make a dollar donation to Kiddie Hospital. I’m more than happy to say in a loud voice, “Absolutely not and here’s why....”

Twenty minutes later, as the people behind me are pushing their carts away to find a faster line, she is always really sorry she asked.

So I don’t want anything on Facebook indicating whether I’m donating organs, adopting stray kittens or sponsoring a starving child in Kampuchea. I might be all of those; I might be none of those. But no one who spends entire evenings posting inspirational, rainbow-framed sayings by Joel Osteen is going to force me into acting on them one way or another.

I wonder, too, how many people will even notice, given the fact that we are already deluged with an avalanche of minutiae about other people’s lives — stuff that might matter to them, but to us is about as interesting as road gravel.

According to the New York Times, organ status will be listed under a section called Health and Wellness, “which includes, for example, updates on whether a person has recently lost weight or ever broken a bone.”

This sounds great if you’re a health-insurance company — oh please, be our guest, list any and all pre-existing conditions right there in an easily searchable database. Why? Oh, no reason.

But I have trouble thinking anyone else would care. Hello and welcome to Facebook; let me tell you about my broken bones.

However, all of the above overlooks the fact that Facebook organ-donor enrollment is far superior to the way it’s done now at the Motor Vehicle Administration. The MVA. You can register to vote and make arrangements for them to harvest your gizzard all at the same place. Anyone who fails to see the parallels isn’t thinking.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at

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