Most people view Facebook as an ideal time-waster, a way to step back from the hustle and bustle of daily life and click around idly. Need a mental breather at work? Scroll through the News Feed. Insufferable urge to gossip? There's a relationship rumor out there, somewhere.
In one bizarre case, though, Facebook's function has been the exact opposite. Instead of life experiences informing a digital profile, the digital persona is rebuilding a life.
Mayank Sharma, 29, of New Delhi, India, contracted tubercular meningitis in 2010. The life-threatening illness attacks the body's central nervous system, causing inflammation of tissues surrounding the brain and spinal chord. He survived, but left the hospital a week later with no memory of the prior 26 years of his life.
"I just remember waking up, with no memory... I couldn't even recognize my own reflection." Sharma states in a video on his ordeal. "Absolutely nothing made sense, I had no idea what relationships meant -- that he was my father, she was my mother, this was my brother."
While he eventually came to terms with his own loss of memories, he's frustrated by the emotional barriers they've erected.
"I can’t reciprocate the emotions of the people close to me," he writes in a blog. "They have known and loved me for 28 years, while my depth of emotions towards them dates back to only the past two."
Sharma, once a prodigious tech writer, set out to re-learn his life. He started "Pick My Brain," a blog devoted to recovering his memories, complete with all his MRI and CT scans, but continued to struggle.
Google's tools also assisted in his quest, from Googling himself to browsing his Gmail account, "every email tells me something about myself in my own words, that I don’t remember,” he told Lighthouse Insights.
Then he (re)discovered Facebook.
He reached out to forgotten acquaintances using the "People You May Know" feature. He started a page to crowd-source his recovery. He clicked through photo albums, hoping contextual clues could jump-start his memories.
And after more than two years of attempting to rebuild his former life, Sharma still has a long road to recovery. Memory loss commonly accompanies his condition, he explains on his blog, but the sheer extent of his loss seems unique.
Doctors do believe he'll recover his memory eventually, writes Facebook Stories, but it will not be easy.
Little things, like signing his own signature, continue to frustrate progress (he's bounced a couple checks as a result), but he's getting better, one status update at a time.