Let's Talk About 'The Ghosts' Hiding In Google Maps
Losing someone is just the worst. And while it’s inevitable that death comes for all of us, it remains a life event that can be pretty difficult for our minds to wrap around, especially when all we’re left with are memories and whatever our brains make of those memories. The deceased aren’t here anymore, we know that, but in our minds, they’re getting semi-drunk and singing a terrible Spice Girls karaoke song on that road trip that one time.
In trying to deal with all the cognitive dissonance that comes with loss and grief, we scroll through old social media photos and text messages, trying to keep those finite memories alive while arguably just adding to our cognitive dissonance. So imagine going on a walkabout in Google Maps’ Street View for whatever reason, only to discover an entirely new, digitally captured image of someone who’s no longer here.
With Google Maps’ time travel feature, people can visit sites captured by Street View and look at older archived images of that very site, perhaps spotting a deceased friend mooning a Street View car passing by. And while Google has had a myriad of problems regarding this captured surveillance technology, some people are finding comfort in seeing the dead walking down the street — an unexpected result that has many divided. For some, it’s a problem because the departed do not have a say in their images being archived in this manner. For others, it’s a bittersweet comfort in their already mind-bending reality.
In a world now dominated by digital technology that can recreate anything from human holograms to chatbots imitating the dead, it’s inevitable that people will start gravitating more and more toward digitally captured memories and moments of those they’ve lost and, in cases like those chatbots, try and create new ones. One of the hardest things about losing someone is that there will never be more memories made together. We are left with only what we have and, even though that should in itself bring us comfort, that “never again” is what’s so difficult for almost everybody to make their peace with. But just like discovering old photos in your parents’ attic, these Street View shots can easily add to the idea of “more memories,” even though they’re not really ours.
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