Social Media and the Afterlife

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Bookcover_Goodbye for nowIn her second novel, Goodbye for Now, Laurie Frankel takes a classic theme of the human experience—we live, we love, then we die—to a new level by adding avatars of her characters’ dead loved ones.

Sam, a software coding genius, writes a computer program that enables his grieving girlfriend, Meredith, to chat via social media with her recently departed grandmother. He creates an algorithm which, drawing data from emails and video calls between the two, allows Meredith to continue communicating with her grandmother after the dear soul’s physical remains are reposed. Sam and Meredith call the software application RePose and offer it to others.

A philosopher with a pen for storytelling, Ms. Frankel has her characters debate the notion that with the onset of artificial intelligence and other technologies, we humans may require an upgrade in Descartes’ proclamation of existence—a version 2.0 of “I think, therefore, I am.” They seem to wonder, “Is ‘the Cloud’ the new heaven since our thoughts, words, and likenesses (pictures and videos) will continue to exist there long after our physical bodies are gone?” What is the soul but conscience and individuality of one’s being?

Skype Chat w Gran-maShe concludes that this “brave new world” of interacting with a facsimile of another pales to experiencing in-the-moment real life with actual loved ones; using social media is, in fact, an isolating experience much like the act of dying.

And, oh, the irony, I’m blogging about this story and sharing it with you via email, Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook has developed policies for loved ones and their dearly departed’s account(s). It’s only a matter of time before a real life “Sam” comes along and creates something like the fictional RePose.

If given the chance, would you want to converse with a loved one after they are physically gone, using the reams of data we are all accumulating from texting, emailing and video calling? Would interacting with a loved one’s avatar help with the grieving process or hinder the healing of the heartbreak of loss?

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