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Eric Yaverbaum

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Facebook's Campaign: Click a Button and Save a Life

Posted: 05/10/2012 2:15 pm

If only it were that easy.

It is natural and beneficial to see social issues mentioned and debated within the context of social media. Humans are, after all, meant to engage each other in order to form relationships and to solve common problems. Social media are just a technological extension of that process.

So I was not surprised last Tuesday to see Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg on Good Morning America as he deployed the power and influence of his creation to advance a cause that affects the 114,000 citizens of the United States who are awaiting an organ transplant.

The part of me that is a social media expert saw the potential for good, of course, because I could see how the declaration of oneself as an organ donor could lead others within one's social network to do the same. It was an especially easy way to get some instant gratification for doing a good thing. It could also encourage dialogue on the subject, which is rarely a bad thing.

However, the part of me that is a public relations practitioner noticed other things. I found it curious that Facebook should choose to give Good Morning America an exclusive opportunity to make the announcement -- GMA is one of the best venues for that -- but because Facebook is locked in contentious patent litigation with Yahoo!, one of the program's content partners. Social causes make strange bedfellows.

I was also disappointed in the ultimate takeaway -- click a button and save a life. It just doesn't work that way, and I could not pretend that it did. There are other steps that still need to be carried out for the intent to become the action.

Call me a killjoy, but I had seen the teasers -- those promotional announcements for network programs that run the day before -- and was led to believe that Facebook would be giving me information that would directly lead to the saving of a life. Okay, I fell for the hype, and I should know better, but I did admire how Facebook was executing its public relations strategy.

Still, the process of organ donation requires actions that go beyond a "one and done" click. We may declare ourselves to be organ donors on our driver's licenses, or we may choose to make organ donation part of a living will. These pronouncements carry legal weight. Checking off the equivalent of a "like" button on a Facebook profile arguably does not.

Not yet, anyway.

And will it ever? To my mind, this is the real question: Will we ever see a day when one's Facebook profile -- its likes, preferences, opinions and declarations of affection -- carries the weight of law? Will it ever be considered the equivalent of other documents, such as wills, personal letters and diaries -- in determining the disposition of our estates and the carrying out of our last wishes?

Time will tell. As someone who follows social media for a living, I will be curious to see the answer unfold as social media continues to play a role in how we all communicate today.

 

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