We have seen Facebook used for the ordinary: scheduling events, sharing stories, and keeping up with friends. We have also seen the social network used for the extraordinary: reuniting lost family members, raising large amounts of money for charity, and even organizing the birthday party of all birthday parties for 11-year-old Colin.
But a story out of Arkansas is offering yet another use of the site: diagnosing illness.
It started with a more ordinary application of Facebook: posting photos of your kids. That is all Tara Taylor did. She uploaded a picture of her 3-year-old daughter, Rylee. In the photo, Rylee's eye was glowing, but the effect was similar to what you would expect from the flash of a camera on a phone.
Taylor's friends saw that it could potentially be something besides the flash.
"They said, 'Hey, I'm sure it's nothing. It's probably the lighting, but your daughter's eye is glowing, and you might want to have it checked out because it's a sign there could be an issue with her eye,'" the mother told Memphis, Tenn., TV news station WREG.
Turns out, they were correct in thinking there may be more to the photo. After seeing a retina specialist at the Baptist Eye Clinic in Memphis, Rylee was diagnosed with Coat's disease. The condition is nonhereditary and can cause partial or full blindness.
"The significant problem we have with children is that a child won't say, 'Mommy, I can't see out of my right eye,'" Dr. Jorge Calzada of the Baptist Eye Clinic told WREG. "It is usually caught in an expected way. When a child recognizes he cannot see or the parent recognizes they cannot see, it's often because they've lost vision in both eyes."
That was not the case for the Taylor family, and with early detection, treatment is available to halt the disease's progression.