The Human Life Cycle has remained the same for as long as we know it. However, we are now uncovering the bizarre phenomenon experienced by loved ones left behind: the feeling of 'life after death' due to technological advancements. This article will explore how living in the digital age can benefit and interfere with the grieving process.
The six stages of a human's lifespan merge into one: beginning with the fetus and progressing to baby, toddler, child, adolescent, adult, and elderly. When the time comes that our physical life ends, our loved ones left behind have to get used to a life without the other - this is where the bizarre phenomenon comes in.
Prior to the digital age, loved ones would cherish the personal items of those who died: reminiscing on the memories attached to them...using our own memories! However, with current and newly-emerging technology, loved ones are left in the limbo of experiencing a strange feeling of life after death - here's why!
Social media has grown rapidly over the years, leaving many of us utilizing these platforms for instant communication, forming communities, and work opportunities. As we divulge all our secrets and personal information on a platter for all to see (and large corporate companies to gain data from), we don't stop to think about the extent this information remains on these platforms when our life on earth ends.
The veil between physical death and digital life thins when profiles remain active. The bitter-sweet relief of voice notes, videos, photos, and posts creates a seemingly tangible connection, bridging the bereaved and the lost. Simultaneously, as Facebook Messenger displays the face of a loved one, their profile has been memorialized, and condolence messages flood in.
This tangible connection with the dead is a snippet of what the future could hold, considering new upcoming technologies.
Living a virtual life may become a reality for some in the future. The booming Metaverse, VR, and AR industries are predicted to further integrate into our already digital-saturated lives. Opportunities will arise for users to be educated, entertained, and trained virtually: one step away from essential human interaction, another step towards a digital world.
Digital services are currently available to send pre-written messages to loved ones post-death, breaking the communication barrier between the deceased and the living. That's just the beginning: the future of AR could provide high-tech, quality imagery that enables those grieving to see their loved ones sitting on the couch, or walking with them in the street - I know, very Black Mirror!
A documentary released in 2021, A.rtificial I.mmortality, covers the fast-paced advancements of AI technology today. This fascinating watch explores the possibility of living forever: keeping the memories, emotions, and spirit of yourself within a scientific, digital interface. For many, this development is synthetic, pioneering an unknown world that tears us away from nature's healing, supportive power.
It brings to question, how would these technologies impact grieving friends or relatives? Firstly, it's important to understand the grieving process.
There are 5 stages of grief that can move interchangeably: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each stage is influenced by our environment, health, past experiences, and culture: a delicate balance that can leave us feeling vulnerable, sad, and confused.
Social media provides a platform for constant reminders of loss and maintains a tangible connection with those who have died: this can make the grieving process much harder . Additionally, the potential role of upcoming technologies means that the stages of grief could be further interrupted -particularly the stage of acceptance. Adjusting to a new reality is difficult when facing visual queues that suggest your loved one is still alive; thus, it feels as if there is another stage in the human life cycle.
Despite some of the negative impacts of these technologies, without these platforms, there wouldn't be vital support groups and strong communities worldwide that help the bereaved. Apps such as My Grief Angels form online support communities that transform into real-life meetups; there are even apps specifically aimed to support children through grief: Lilies, Apart of Me, and Nino's Mourning Toolbox to name a few. These heartwarming creations can be lifelines for those struggling through grief - a helping hand when the world seems bleak.
Current technology appears to extend the life cycle to a perceived "life after death" for the bereaved. Social media profiles remain online, holding a tangible connection with those who have died. The future of technology could further bridge this gap, with platforms such as the Metaverse, VR, and AR progressing rapidly.
While technology does enable worldwide supportive communities for grieving individuals, this ever-saturated digital world could interfere with the grieving process, particularly acceptance. It's important to remain aware of the technologies we expose ourselves to and understand how this affects our lives in the present and future.