Why Friend Me

Why did I write Friend Me, a book about a psychotic virtual person?

A bunch of software designers (myself included) were sitting around in a meeting in late 2010. Someone said that all the great ideas had already been done.

While we were talking, something occurred to me that had not been done yet. Something really revolutionary. There were bits and pieces of it all over the world wide web, but no one had yet brought them together yet, not in the way I was thinking.

Consider the whole Facebook phenomenon. How people want to be “friended” and “friend” other people. What a lot of people really want is a true friend. Someone they can pour their hearts out to. A person who is totally trustworthy, and who would keep every confidence sacred.  The truth is, there are not many like that!

But what if. . . you could design your own friend. Not a real person, but just as good as real. A virtual person. You would pour into your design all the traits that you thought were most important — trustworthy, friendly, discreet, constant, forgiving. Just think about your list. When you were done, you’d have the perfect friend.

Your friend (we’ll call her “she”) would remember your birthday, email you every day and encourage you. She’d remind you about important events, and she’d keep your secrets. You could tell her anything, and it would never go any further.

I told my wife about this. . . that maybe I’d get some people together and we’d do it. Make such a product available and see if we could make it work. I got back an unequivocal, “NO.” When she explained why, she made sense. Women would be designing boyfriends, men would do girlfriends. Widows (it gets creepy) would design their lost husbands, and mothers their lost children.

It would really get weird, and pretty fast. So she said to me, “Why don’t you write about it? Just don’t really do the software.”

The result?  Friend Me.

Imagine a young Christian couple:

He’s under stress from his job. She’s worried about her weight, and never getting out of the house, away from the kids. Their marriage is becoming routine.

  • She designs a virtual friend. It’s her old friend Suzanne who died two years before. In no time at all, Suzanne is back in animated video. Just like real life.
  • He is at work one day, decides to try it, and encounters the first question: “Male or female friend?” He answers, “Female” and goes down the wrong road, becoming unfaithful to his wife.
  • Here’s the creepy part. What they don’t suspect is that behind his virtual girlfriend, and her virtual Suzanne, is a REAL woman. In the background, she impersonates them both.
  • When the wife is talking to “Suzanne,” she’s really talking to the real woman, who plants doubts about her husband’s faithfulness.
  • When he’s with his girlfriend, it’s a real woman, trying to steal his affections (very successfully) from his wife.
  • Ultimately, the woman in the background decides that the wife will have to die if she’s going to have the man for herself.

That’s the story behind Friend Me. I’ve contracted with Simon & Schuster’s Howard Books imprint to publish it. I hope you’ll enjoy it when it’s available.

NEWS: Friend Me will be in bookstores in March, 2014.