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Posted at 01:07 PM ET, 05/02/2012

Facebook’s organ donor program and the fine print


Fresh meat! (bigstock)
I’m an organ donor.

The instant I kick the proverbial bucket and head off to push up daisies and join the blooming choir invisible, the organ goes to the most deserving, pipes and pedals and all.

Hang on . . . I’m being told that this joke was already told to death in 1959 sometime.

Ahem.

Facebook has a new feature coming out where it invites you to list whether you are an organ donor.

There is a tremendous waiting line for organs, so this has been widely hailed as exciting news. For once, peer pressure is being harnessed for a good cause. Instead of egging each other on to — apparently, these days — drink hand sanitizer and construct tiny Listerine stills, the group of shady characters gathering in basements by night are urging each other to do good. The kids circle up and the ominous-looking guy chewing a toothpick murmurs, “Hey, want to donate your kidneys? Everyone’s doing it.”

Instead of waking up in strange bathtubs with no recollection of what happened the preceding night, America’s youth will wake up in strange bathtubs with no recollection of what happened the preceding night, but now we’ll be organ donors!

Well, not quite like that.

On the whole, pressure to donate organs is a good idea — especially when one of the reasons many people haven’t decided whether to donate is because they are unnerved by the thought that they may someday die.

Nothing put a damper on your merriment quite like the thought that eventually you will not be around to enjoy it. As Woody Allen said, “I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” This is most people’s approach. So the thought that eventually someone will be wandering around with your lungs is, in many cases, less consoling than terrifying.

And Facebook seems to be a bastion of people unaware that they will someday die. If we had any conception of mortality, we wouldn’t spend nearly so much time on Farmville.

The one thing that troubles me, though, is that the Organ Donor status question comes in a new Health and Wellness section. According to the New York Times, this section, “includes, for example, updates on whether a person has recently lost weight or ever broken a bone.”

Really?

Facebook is enough of a feeding frenzy as it is without getting updates every time Derek tries a new eggless Power Eggs recipe and loses six pounds.

It’s all very well to keep records of whether you’ve ever broken a bone. I can’t think exactly how it might be useful, but it certainly does no harm, unless lions start browsing Facebook to look for weaker and more vulnerable members of the herd.

But a Facebook that keeps you abreast of every single time anyone you’ve ever met loses weight? That begins to sound wantonly cruel. It makes sense for some: those people who like to rise early in the morning to lift small birds back into nests, do sit-ups, eat egg whites and go for jogs while listening to Noam Chomsky on tape. They monitor each other’s progress hacking into the wilds of fitness, cheering loudly for each quarter-pound and every half-mile, and I wish them every joy.

But most people are not like that. This is probably for the best. We might live too long and get sick of one another. Or sprain something.

So I hope Facebook has thought carefully about this next step. Organ donation is all very well. But think of the Pandora’s box this opens. I love my friends. I feel a sort of yeasty benevolence toward humankind. I would gladly hand over my vitals to them when the time comes. Just don’t tell me every time they gain percentage muscle mass, or I might change my mind.

By  |  01:07 PM ET, 05/02/2012

Tags:  Facebook

 
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