Apparently, what I thought Social networking was isn’t actually Social networking. It’s something else entirely. This all happened yesterday and this morning.
“What we hope will happen is that by just having a simple tool, we think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends, and we think that can be a big part in helping to solve the crisis,” Zuckerberg said on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” program on Tuesday.
The social media website announced today a new feature that would allow users to publish their status as organ donors . By having users add a line to their timelines identifying themselves as organ donors, the company hopes to raise awareness of the country’s need for organ transplants. In addition to letting users add organ donor status to their Facebook pages, Facebook is urging users to share their stories behind why they decided to become donors.
“Thank you, FACEBOOK, for offering hope to people on the waiting list! Phenomenal!,” the posting said. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the nonprofit group’s chief executive, Charlene Zettel, explained how the tool could help her organization’s cause. “It’s important to have a diverse group of donors to select from. Nothing is doing education like Facebook did this morning,” she said.
I’ve been thinking about this for the last 28 hours or so, trying to articulate why I didn’t like it and why I think it’s wrong. I haven’t been successful. On the surface, this seems like the right thing to do. Facebook is the internet representation for most of us, a place where we can share with the rest of the world what we are doing, what we believe in, what we think is important. If Facebook is doing that, representing who we are, then it makes perfect sense that Facebook does this in every way. And, putting a cherry on top, by letting people represent their decision to donate organs after death, Facebook allows more people to understand the option, thus gaining more donors. On the surface, this seems right.
This is Organ donation we are talking about. This isn’t a status update about where you’re going for dinner. This is about what happens to your organs, the things that keep you alive that are inside your body, and what happens to them after you stop breathing.
There is an argument to be made that some things should be private.
My philosophy for my online presence is what I call “Scourged Earth.” I give people, mostly you readers, a very deep and thoughtful look into my life. It seems like it, anyway. In reality, I keep a substantial amount of information private. By giving a lot, I am able to appear transparent. The illusion of transparency hides what I’d like to keep private. You might know what I think about education, politics, class issues and gender issues, but you have no idea what I think about religion, moral responsibility or ethical codes of conduct. I decide to keep those private. My philosophy is unique, though. I’m a writer and writers typically give all but some, and they never give up the some.
One can argue that most people don’t have this philosophy, and give far, far too much. I have about 750 some people in my friend’s list on Facebook. I know, just by reading their updates, that some are divorced, some are getting divorced, and some might actually need professional mental help. People give too much of themselves on Facebook because Facebook allows them to and, in many ways, encourages them too. I get a bit uneasy when I see a couple post their sonogram pictures with the baby only one-month old. It’s great to see people get engaged, but it’s heartbreaking to find out the engagement is over, that they broke up. This deluge of personal information is usually benign, showing me what people have eaten for dinner or showing off a new car or giving me a pretty cool view of the pretty cool view they have. Other times, it is far too much. When parents die, for example, or when someone is gravely ill. It’s not that I don’t want to know this information. It’s that I might not need to know it. If I haven’t talked to you personally in ten years, I might not need to read on Facebook that, “I’m going through a really hard time and I need your thoughts and prays.” I haven’t thought about you since 2001. You don’t need my thoughts or prays and you don’t need to let me know you need them.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone, especially with the classic “In a relationship” move to “single” in a two month breath. But, besides a few times where I’ve adamantly been spiteful on Facebook (which, yes, is immature) I try and stay away from letting people peer that deeply into my world. That’s why this idea of allowing people to see my Organ donor status makes me uncomfortable. There is some information that the world in all its glory doesn’t need to know. Your mother needs to know you’re an organ donor. Your children need to know. Your spouse needs to know. You should decide to be an organ donor and then tell all the people close to you that you want to be an organ donor. My 750+ friends don’t need to know that, and Facebook shouldn’t give us the option of sharing it.
If Facebook was completely altruistic about this, they would email their users and ask them to sign up for organ donor registration. That isn’t information that needs to be “shared” and I’m curious as to why Facebook would want to do it. This decision is a huge “Red Light” for me, actually, and I’ve seriously thought of removing myself from this conversation entirely. You can’t delete your profile, you can only “pause” it. But I only need a pause to jump off. If this is happening, something light and fluffy as organ donation, what’s next? Facebook update: Jarvis Slacks has been arrested. Facebook update: Jarvis Slacks just bought shoes he couldn’t afford. Facebook update: Jarvis Slacks wants to be cremated.
I might be totally off here. I don’t think Facebook has crossed a line. I think we crossed the line of public vs. private information sharing years ago. I am, however, thinking differently about my online presence and what the world sees. The organ donation announcement just creeps me out, and that feeling on my skin, like there is a film of dirt on me that I can’t wash off, it just won’t leave.