Humans have long wondered whether they can survive the death of their physical bodies. Some people now look to technology as a means by which this might occur, using terms such 'whole brain emulation', 'mind uploading', and 'substrate independent minds' to describe a set of hypothetical procedures for transferring or emulating the functioning of a human mind on a synthetic substrate. There has been much debate about the philosophical implications of such procedures for personal survival. Most participants to that debate assume that the continuation of identity is an objective fact that can be revealed by scientific enquiry or rational debate. We bring into this debate a perspective that has so far been neglected: that personal identities are in large part social constructs. Consequently, to enable a particular identity to survive the transference process, it is not sufficient to settle age-old philosophical questions about the nature of identity. It is also necessary to maintain certain networks of interaction between the synthetic person and its social environment, and sustain a collective belief in the persistence of identity. We defend this position by using the example of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhist tradition and identify technological procedures that could increase the credibility of personal continuity between biological and artificial substrates.