Social (network) pressure

By adding an organ-donation tool to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is setting up a dynamic of social pressure for virtue. Is that always good?

Now getting us to sign our drivers’ licenses so our vital bits can be harvested to save others’ lives is a moderately low-impact decision. But what about the occasional calls for folks to sign up to be tested for a marrow transplant — as in the drive for Super Amit? That’s no easy decision.

Imagine tomorrow, God forbid, one of your Facebook friends needs a kidney. There’s a tool staring you in the face asking you to get tested for a match. Do you join that lottery, getting tested and hoping to fail (or win)? Do you risk being shunned by your community if you don’t? Do you join in shunning others if they don’t?

I’m not proposing answers to those questions. Technology is pushing at our norms, forcing us to adapt, in so many ways, from how we communicate and converse to how we define what’s polite and what’s rude. This is a mighty poke. It will be fascinating to watch.

  • Joe

    My step-dad was saved by a kidney donation. The whole family as well as close friends were tested for possible matches. The pressure to get tested was enormous, but yet handled very discreetly and professionally.

    My point is, if this is handled right, this could be a great thing. Obviously I wouldn’t want anyone to know I’m a donor. If it came down to life or death for someone I was rare match for, sign me up.

    Now the logistics of this services is enormous and should be interesting how they pull it off.

    • Rabid Badger

      Why is it obvious you don’t want any one to know your a donor? Isn’t the point to be known. It’s not a secret to take to your grave.

  • Rabid Badger

    It’s not “Social pressure” it’s a “social suggestion.”

    I’m as “pressured” into organ donation as much as I’m “pressured” into following @JustinBieber because he has 12 trillion followers. Needless to say, I’m not a preadolescent girl, so…

    (organ donor for 12 years)

  • “Do you risk being shunned by your community if you don’t? Do you join in shunning others if they don’t?”

    Why should this even come up? If I elect to become a donor this way, will it be broadcast to the entire network? If so, that’s wrong. Let me choose to make my choice known; don’t let it be the default.

    • Rabid Badger

      Well, it’s not like you HAVE to use facebook to do it. Let Facebook be a reminder, use it’s link to sign up. You don’t HAVE to broadcast it. You can make it public, not public, friends only…

      Why is there a stigma to altruism? I’m confused by both these commenters.

  • So let me see if I understand the argument:

    An otherwise healthy little girl is going to die if you don’t undergo a relatively risk free procedure to have a bone marrow transfusion for her. And you’re the only person who can do it.

    But you choose not to do it.

    Why SHOULDN’T you be shunned?

    Is it any different than refusing to dive into the water to save a drowning girl because you’re afraid you might get hypothermia and die? (Grant me for a moment that the odds are the same).

    Society depends on large part on the civilizing effects that come from a risk of being shunned.

    Do I wish that everyone would voluntarily save lives, pay taxes and not shoplift? You bet. But in the absence of that, YES, we need the most public (ah, there’s that word again) list of lifesaving (and life costing) actions we can create.

    This is one of the very best side effects of our loss of privacy, imho. You still have the right not to save this girl’s life, but we have the right to shun you for it.

    • Sam

      THANK YOU!!

      I signed up to be a bone marrow donor the first time I was asked, and then brought my boyfriend back so he could. Sure, it’s very painful and inconvenient. But it’s a LIFESAVING procedure. Who wouldn’t opt for that (barring those who couldn’t for medical reasons etc)? Selfish people, that’s who. And yes, they should be shunned.

    • Johnsutton55

      There is an element of the self-righteous in your sermon Seth that is out of character with the person I think you are. As I see it, the logical conclusion of what you’re advocating is that our bodies are communal property to be used as the the community sees fit. 

      I disagree.

      How I choose to use my body is my business, not yours. What you choose to do with your body is your business, not mine.

  • Jeremy

    For me, I’m already a “rude” person online because I ignore obnoxious Internet social networking behavior by people who have “friended” me – on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Maybe people think less of me for my behavior, but if I don’t know you that well, I don’t care about your pet issue, or you are generally annoying I simply ignore you. I have accounts everywhere, and I do participate in online social networking, but not to the detriment of my own sanity and stress levels.

    Facebook is already mostly irrelevant to me because of the level of pure obnoxious behavior by so many people who have “friended” me. Being hated on by those who think I have to believe and do as they do will likely not impact me much, if at all. If you really want to yell at me in-person for not participating in organ donation through Facebook you can do that to my face, and then we can begin a discussion about our reasoned stances on the issue. And, of course, 80% of Americans will refuse to ever do that with me because reasonable arguments are like Kryptonite to the average, “tolerant” American.

  • In regards to Seth Godin’s comment — no, you don’t have the right to shun people. You can opt to do so — this is not a basic need or advancement, such as voting or education. Rights are powerful things, and don’t need to be associated with discriminatory behavior such as shunning someone because they don’t choose to brag about a personal decision with their friends, albeit the Facebook kind.

    Making it easier to choose organ donation is a fine thing, but does it also need to be pinned on your public online persona, like yet another piece of flair on the Chotchkie’s uniform? Why must we give up our privacy in altruism, which is a deep moral (and, at times, religious) tenet of doing good for the sake of doing good, and not for the recognition of the act?

    • Rabid Badger

      There is a choice of how you display it on FaceBook, public, private, just friends, specific list… It’s a convenience for users, not a badge of braggadocio.

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  • I have MS so I’m not an ideal donor.

    But when I’m dead, what do I care what happens to the shell I leave behind.

    If my corpse is of some use, have at it.

    Just make sure I’m actually dead before you start hacking and slashing.

    We ALL get recycled in some form or other.

  • It is not a matter of Facebook or technology that is being intrusive or good or bad. It is a matter of principles.

    If we were in a town where everyone knows everyone and one of us would put a donor table in front of the Town Hall would this be any different?

    As Seth says: if it is in your power to do good, then do it. If not, the society will educate you. Yes, I would get into the lottery, but with some fear. Why? Depending of what I am donating it is a part of me that I will give away.

    This case would be actually beneficial, because the peer pressure would force you to do good things even if you wouldn’t.

  • Fortunately what social media does best is provide the conditions for discussion (exactly like this) to take place. Likely what will happen is exactly what is happening here: a civil dialog exploring a social issue that benefits all in the process.

    Just watching the cases being made on this string for and against I’m gaining new insights and encountering different perspectives to help me be more well-rounded and deliberative.

    There will always be social pressure, but I think social media will allow us to lessen that pressure by connecting with others of a similar mindset or by being afforded the opportunity to tell the other side of the story.