For the past few days I’ve been getting spam emails from my friend. A friend who died five years ago.
Daniel was seventeen when he passed away and as you might expect of a teenage boy he was a little strange, so I wasn’t really surprised when I read his first email’s subject of “Hi! Are you having fun? Cat”. I was surprised when I remembered that I had been to his Cremation. As I deciphered the first badly written sales pitch for cheap electronics I realised that the emails probably hadn’t been coming from Daniel (even though they were apparently sent from his email address) but in fact a spammer who, for a moment, had sucked me right in.
I recently read the book ‘Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives’ by David Eagleman. In it, the author puts forward the idea that “There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second in when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, some time in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”
For a while I quite liked this, it adds an ambiguity to something that had seemed bleakly final, creating the hope that when you’re gone all it takes is for somebody to utter your name in order for you to live again, but after receiving Daniel’s emails the idea of three deaths just didn’t seem like enough anymore. I think that there must exist a fourth death – the last time that someone interacts with your online ghost.
Yesterday I drove past someone I used to know. When I got home I googled them and I couldn’t find a single result – no Facebook page; no Twitter account; no email address; no mention in a local newspaper. I’ll probably never meet them again. They’re dead to me in almost every way and certainly more dead than many of my friends who’ve actually lost their lives. That’s a reassuring thought – not least because the person I drove past yesterday is a moron.
I’m looking forward to hearing from Daniel again.