We hear a lot of stories about Facebook annoying its members with privacy concerns, photo bans, and increasingly intrusive advertising features. Of course, 995 million active users prove that we're mostly willing to endure these things in order to get our social media fix, and the flip side of all the complaining is that we love Facebook's ability to help us connect with other people.
In fact, in the case of one man, Facebook hasn't just made it easier for him to stay in contact with friends and family -- it's literally helping him rebuild those relationships. Mayank Sharma lost all his memories to tubercular meningitis in 2010, and he's currently using Facebook’s People You May Know feature to start piecing his life back together.
Sharma can't remember where he was or when it happened, but one morning in 2010, he woke up with no memory of the first 26 years of his life. He'd contracted tubercular meningitis, a mix of tuberculosis and cerebral inflammation that attacks the nervous system. He'd developed hydrocephalus when a fluid backup in the base of his brain followed the inflammation, and the results were catastrophic: complete and total amnesia.
In the New Delhi hospital where he recuperated, friends and family tried to help him regain his life's experiences:
During my recovery, everyone was standing around me trying to make me remember. Doctors say these things I think I remember now are just from these tales. That's why I can't picture myself in the scenes. It's not me remembering from the past, but it's me remembering what others have been telling me.
Sharma didn't recognize his parents, his brother, or even his own reflection in the mirror.
Doctors are still optimistic that he'll regain his memory someday, but for now, Sharma is using Facebook to reconnect with the people from his past. He started with the People You May Know feature, and has now created a page titled "Help me (re)build my Memory Palace." His friends and family have been contributing through posts and messages, helping Sharma rebuild the memories he lost -- even though they haven't all been positive:
When I decided to reach out to people and rediscover my old self, I knew there would be some unpleasantries. But I think it's a small price to pay for almost three decades worth of learning experiences.
He also searched his own name via Google in order to find the many articles he'd written online over the years, and discovered hundreds of emails that he had written via Gmail:
Thanks to Gmail, I have been able to piece together the most important years of my adult life. Be it, the exhaustive threads hashing out articles and book edits with my editors, or sending out music and movie recommendations to friends, every email tells me something about myself in my own words, that I don’t remember.
I can't even begin to imagine what Mayank Sharma must be going through, but what an unexpected use of technology. We so often focus on whether or not people are sharing too much information online, it's an entirely different perspective to think of the benefits of being able to reclaim your own memories. Without the Internet and social media, Sharma would be having a much harder time figuring out who he used to know, what sorts of contributions he'd made, and ultimately, who he was before he lost everything.
Check out this video from Facebook on Mayank Sharma:
What do you think of this story? Have you ever thought of social media being used in this way?
Image via Vimeo