Here are two topics that I’ve been following coming together in a creepy, creepy way: social automation and social network profiles that remain after death.
I’ve been thinking about social media automation for a while now as it’s been cropping up more and more in discussions of personal branding and social media marketing. Although automated social media may seem to be a bit of an oxymoron (how can you be social if you’re not actually participating?), it’s definitely the future, especially for celebrity and corporate presences on social networks.
Like most things in life, half of success in social media is just showing up. Another big part of it is actually being there and being engaged. Retweeting. Liking. Responding to comments. But social media isn’t 9 to 5. It’s 24/7. Facebook doesn’t take a vacation from you, but your Klout score will go down if you take a vacation from it. Social automation will mean that you’re “there” even when you’re not. “You” will be liking, tweeting, and commenting, without you actually having to do anything. (For more on social automation, check out Mashable’s article “Sharepocalypse Now: Why Social Media Overload Means New Opportunities for Startups”, which defines social automation as “Services that help to automate activity in social networks, like automatically updating your status, helping to increase your influence, suggesting what to share, matchmaking, alerting, and using bots to intelligently interact with and assist users.”)
As to social media after you’re gone, it’s a strange and uncomfortable thing to consider, but the more people that join social networking sites (and, let’s be honest, the aging of the population engaged in social media usage), the more and more profiles that there will be for dead people. At some point, we’ll reach a point when more than 50% of Facebook profiles are for people that are no longer alive. Combining CDC stats, and Facebook age and growth demographics, I’m sure that someone can figure it out , but I’ve spent enough time in Excel for today. (For more on social media after you’re gone, read my post “There are three things in life you can’t escape — death, Facebook, and taxes”.)
Ready for the real creepiness? Click play.
Too long, didn’t watch? Mashable’s Adam Ostrow talks about a future in which he predicts “… it’s going to become possible for our digital personas to continue to interact in the real world long after we’re gone thanks to the vastness of the amount of content that we’re creating and technology’s ability to make sense of it all.”
He discusses how, through social media, we’re leaving so much data about ourselves, our personalities, our likes, dislikes, and word choices that computers will learn to predict what we will say in any given situation. I’ve written before about how we’re all writing our own autobiographies (“Social Media and the Art of Storytelling”). But Mr. Ostrow takes it one step further: he believes that computers will be able to take the biographical footprints that we’re leaving all over the internet and create something even greater than a static memorial.
Mr. Ostrow says, “Today we’re all creating this incredibly rich digital archive that’s going to live in the cloud indefinitely after we’re gone.” And because our information will live indefinitely, we, (or at least a version of us), will live indefinably, too.
Dorkyness warning: I’m picturing this as a kind of digital version of the portraits of the former headmasters of Hogwarts. They can talk and interact with you, they can even learn and adapt to new information, but their personalities always remain the same. They can’t enter the physical world and are bound to the canvas, er… screen.
It’s weird to think about interacting with the digital ghost (for lack of a better term) of a loved one. Will by aunt’s digital ghost continue to like my vacation pictures long after she’s gone? (Not that there’s anything wrong with any of my aunts, many of whom read this blog and are now probably wondering whom I’m writing about…) It’s even weirder to think of two or more digital ghosts interacting with each other. Will another friend’s digital ghost continue to wish her husband a happy anniversary years after they’re both dead? Will my friend’s digital ghost post an event invitation for an annual party? Will my digital ghost RSVP yes, as I always do?
Well, this post raises a lot more questions than answers…
So, questions of the day: What do you think? Is this what’s coming? Will my digital ghost continue this blog? Will yours keep commenting?
MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.