Facebook can save lives

FOURTY- EIGHT hours after Facebook launched an organ donor application, 100 000 users on the social media site made their desire to become official donors.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that an organ donor status is now available for users who wish to indicate their decision to family and friends and, more importantly, the official registries in their state or county.

Zuckerberg said in a speech to launch the donor status that he was inspired by conversations he had with his girlfriend about children waiting for organ donations.

He also mentioned his friendship with late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Jobs’ public battle with cancer ended last year, however a liver transplant in 2009 helped Jobs fight his cancer for a few more years.

The application is currently only available in the US, UK, Netherlands and Australia.

Donate Life America, a non-profit organisation that partnered with Facebook in the US, has noted a dramatic increase in donors since the donor status was offered.

They followed the patterns of donors in 22 states, noting the average sign-up of 400 new donors a day leapt to 6 000 the day after the organ donor status was launched.

While only a small percentage of donors’ organs are useable after they die, the increase in official donors has the potential to ease the strain on national donor lists.

The United Network for Organ Sharing said 6 600 people died while waiting on the organ transplant list last year in the US.

While the donor status is not yet an option in South Africa, the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa urges donors to make sure their families are aware of their decision, as a relative will have to inform the hospital after death.

Project manager of the foundation Taryn Gingell said:

“There are still strong difficulties, culturally, with organ donation. There was a case in KZN where the younger members of the family had to get permission to donate a family member’s organs but the elderly person did not understand this and refused that the organs be donated.”

By calling the foundation you can register as an organ donor and receive a sticker to place on your driver’s licence and ID book. However, for the transplant to be authorised, consent from your family does still need to be given in South Africa.

The foundation estimates there are currently 1 400 patients waiting for heart, lung, kidney and other transplants.

There are currently around 300 000 registered organ donors in South Africa, less than 0.6% of the population.


A status update is a status upgrade

Facebook is seen as a social medium for the university “elite” by young South Africans who can’t find work and are not studying.

This is according to a paper presented at a media conference on campus earlier this week.

Wits hosted over 70 international media scholars at Beyond Normative Approaches: Everyday Media Culture in Africa to share and debate their studies on how different people in Africa interact with different kinds of media.

Facebook was seen as a social network of higher status than Mxit by young people who are unemployed and do not attend university.

These are the findings of Marion Walton from the University of Cape Town, Milagros Rivera and TT Sreekumar from the National University of Singapore, who studied 18 to 21-year-old youths in Khayelitsha.

To these youths, the platform used to communicate with their friends can say much about their status and success, or failure.

One person said she closed her Facebook account when she wasn’t accepted for university. Another said: “I won’t get on Facebook because I don’t wear Carvela or I do not attend UCT.”

Despite being unemployed, these young people use mobile phones to create opportunities for themselves or as distractions from the realities of life.

Some run illegal businesses or “hustle” using their phones. Others chat on Mxit until the early hours of the morning instead of going to shebeens.

Mxit was also shown to bridge cultural divides between the apartheid definitions of “coloured” and “black African” in the Eastern Cape.

Mxit constructs “new hybrid ways of being which allow one to ‘live both cultures’, or to be ‘Mix’,” according to Alette Schoon from Rhodes University.

Unemployed and uneducated youth face the problem of expensive bandwidth associated with Facebook and Twitter, and regard the media as selfish for saying “follow us on Twitter” or “talk to us on Facebook”.

But university students and graduates, despite having relatively easy access to media and information, do not necessarily participate in the public sphere.

This was the conclusion of a study by Tamsin van Tonder, from the University of Johannesburg.

The internet allows for active debate around issues that could influence governance. But she found that more than half of 18 to 35-year-olds in Johannesburg seldom or never engage in debate via tweets, blogs, Facebook posts, or comments sections.