With much of the narrative around Facebook being negative these days, it is good to be able to highlight some of the positive the platform also facilitates.
This week, Facebook has announced an expansion of its blood donor program, with the feature to be made available in the US after seeing success in other regions.
Indeed, the program has become a major contributor to several blood donation drives - as noted by Facebook:
"Since 2017, Facebook has partnered with blood donation centers around the world to help increase the number of donors. More than 35 million people have signed up to be blood donors on Facebook in Bangladesh, Brazil, India and Pakistan where this feature is available. Blood donation centers in India and Brazil found that 20% of people said that Facebook influenced their decision to donate blood, according to in-person surveys conducted at partner blood banks."
Yes, there are significant concerns with Facebook and its influence over information flow, along with its capacity for misuse in regards to advertising, etc. But it's hard to deny the value of initiatives like this - 35 million people signing up to donate blood is huge, and will have a major impact for health professionals.
If Facebook can replicate even some of that success in America, that will also be worthy of note.
As explained by Mitzy Edgecomb, vice president of marketing and communications at Vitalant:
“Tens of thousands of blood donors are needed each day across the US to transform the lives of patients requiring blood transfusions. Summer and winter are notoriously difficult times for collecting enough blood donations, but the need does not stop and can even rise due to increased travel, activity, adverse weather events and cold and flu season among other factors.”
Users in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco Bay Area, Baltimore and Washington, DC will now be able to sign-up to become a blood donor on Facebook by going to 'Blood Donations' in the 'About' section of their profile. When blood donation centers need donors, they can request such on the platform, and send notifications to those nearby who have signed up. The program will roll out to all US cities in the coming months.
In addition, Facebook is also partnering with the American Red Cross and Vitalant on a new 'Missing Types' campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the need for specific types of blood donations. The campaign will be run as part of a broader push for World Blood Donor Day on June 14th.
It's not like these types of initiatives negate the negative impacts of Facebook, and the influence its algorithms can have on the types of information users see - which can skew their perception of reality. But there are significant benefits to having a massive global, online network of people - a virtual, borderless society where you can reach huge audiences all at once, and connect with relevant people and groups.
These are the types of projects and tools that show that Facebook can change the world for the better. It may not be there yet - it may not ever get there - but the vision of a global society online can be great. If we can negotiate the particulars.