iDying or The Gravestone We Leave Ourselves

I’m sorry guys, but I am going to die. As are you. If you are able to read this then shit, I don’t know how to tell you this… but yeah… you’re going to die. And the kicker is you’ll never know when it’ll happen until it is either right on top of you or after the event, which means technically that it’s far far too late for you to do anything about.

I have always wondered about the moment when a child finds out that they will die. I can’t remember when it became pretty clear to me what death actually was, but I know for a fact that the Lion King had a good hand in my preparation for the death of people, and my Grandfather’s passing probably gave me a good insight into it. That feeling that after this, whatever this is, there is probably nothing more physical is a strange one that only our species has to front being the only one so far with intelligence to be able to ask the question.

Until the early 1990s the only thing that would leave a trace of our own existence within the human mind was the people around us. If we were lucky, two generation later people might still know of us and we would be remembered for longer than our lives, and eternal famousness is something that only a very few can lay claim to. The anonymity of our species is something that some people find hard to deal with. But it was a fact that our death signalled the end of our lives and peoples memories would be the last thing for us to remember us by, the eulogies and the obituaries and the conversations about our lives among family and friends would last us.

Now we’ve got a problem. The problem is that our lives are being recorded in eternal memories by machines and the internet. Everything that we do online is kept for better or worse and the things that we have spoken about will forever be somewhere, maybe not able to be seen, but our trace will be there. Our IP address logged, Google storing our histories… it’s all being done right now. And whilst you are alive this is not a problem, because we like that, as it means where we type into Google it knows what we have looked at. When we are on Facebook you can look back at photos of you in Paris from years ago being able to bore people with Holiday photos easier than ever before.

But that will never go away. If I were to suddenly stop updating my Facebook instantly people would wonder what was wrong, but in a matter of days people would realise that I had voluntarily stopped using it and would become a social wasteland, every so often populated by a “You Top 5 Drinks” being posted to my Profile by one of my subordinates. But what if I were to die? Wait… let’s change this to someone else, I don’t fancy pretending I am dead. My Facebook, as it is right now would be frozen, my last status update being “Mark Shields is on Holiday is 5 hours time.” Meaning that would be my epigraph. My final word on things. It would then become a shire for hundreds of thousands of RIPs and tearful affections plaster all over, I assume.

But what of my life online? This blog would be here forever, locked in a kind of limbo, the casual reader not aware of my passing, nor will any one else – the friends you make online would be none the wiser to that of your death. Every so often there might be a post saying “Where’s Jack” but Jack’s dead and no one outside of the internet knew that he was revered amongst some who would care. It’s an interesting point.

There’s the problem too of the accounts – I have several accounts I use to update my cohorts. Facebook, the blog, Twitter, my writing, my email, my laptop’s security… all of these would instantly be rendered impossible to access, and as such delete. Everything would be locked away forever, in a stasis of limbo, like a paused movie frame never to played again.

It marks me quite profoundly that there is no answer to this – unlike sending a driver’s license off to the DVLA to let them know someone’s passed away, Facebook would, in theory, never be able to know, and as such I would forever be the youthful, drunken person online with stupid glasses and long hair.

No longer should you have a marble gravestone, just prop a computer monitor with access to my Facebook.