Currently, you are alive! Check your pulse if you don’t believe me, although if you are as inept as I am chances are you won’t be able to find it. Really though, unless you’re a ghost or you’re in Heaven with nothing better to do than read this shit, you’re almost certainly alive. So while you’re still here, grab a beer, pull up a chair, and join me on a tour of what you won’t miss when you bite the dust!
1. Breathing. Cast your mind back to the last time you had a blocked nose. Your sense of smell abandoned you and your nose wouldn’t stop crying about it, and your ability to breathe was severely diminished too. It was terrible. As the hours passed, your sniffles would allow just a tiny bit more air in, but then, suddenly — so suddenly you probably didn’t even notice it until hours after the event came to pass — your nose cleared. You realised all over again just how joyous it was to be able to breathe the Earth’s polluted, carcinogen filled air through a clear pair of nostrils. When you are dead, you will never be able to breathe again (obviously) — and I’d bet that the first thing on Dead You’s list of things you miss would be “breathing”.
2. Eating. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a list of the most basic things a person needs to do to survive — but it’s worth mentioning that eating would be a pretty horrible thing to never do again too. Eating is wonderful. There are so many tastes to experience: the sweet, the salty, the bitter and the sour — wait, hold on. What’s that? There are five basic tastes? Oh. Okay. There’s umami, too, which is well known for being the taste of things like cheese, and breast milk. Dead You will never taste umami again. Your corpse — assuming you aren’t cremated upon death — would hold its skull, if it could, and fail to cry (after all, the dead do not have tear ducts) as it realised it would never taste breast milk again. You would never again feel the satisfaction of eating a filling meal after having an empty stomach. You would never again do the cinnamon challenge and get 2 views for your suffering. On the other hand, you’d never have to eat your words, although this isn’t much consolation since the dead don’t have vocal cords either.
3. Lists. Lists are wonderful. Some lists are used for organisation, as demonstrated by shopping lists, to-do lists, and X. These lists give us purpose and direction. Without them we would get to the dairy aisle and break down as we realise we don’t know whether it’s milk or eggs we need to buy. Other lists are used to present information in a way that is more palatable to a generation of human beings whose attention spans have been severely reduced by Youtube and Twitter. Lists are the basis of human life — okay, maybe that is going a bit far, but certainly Dead You would feel purposeless and directionless if you could, and a list could help with that, if such a list could be written and then read.
4. Bed. Coffins are hard and cold, made of wood and therefore rather splintery, and prone to eventually being infiltrated by termites, insects and the occasional bodysnatcher. Dead You can only lie and watch as you are defiled over and over again, and as you face this horror, you’ll almost certainly remember what the other place you spent a lot of time lying down in was like. It’s your bed. A safe haven, a place for warmth, Netflix binges and occasionally faire crac-crac. There will be no crac-crac in the grave, that’s for sure, but there might be outside of it if one of those bodysnatchers I was talking about takes a liking to you.
5. Opening packages.* There is something about the combined tactile and auditory experience of opening something that is truly magical. Be it a present or a delivery from Amazon, opening something that has been wrapped up or put in a box is a pure, satisfying sensory experience, and that’s ignoring all the things going on in your head as you open something. All the time spent waiting to open the thing comes together in one final moment of success. No, I haven’t confused the experience of “opening packages” with the experience of having an orgasm, I just like opening stuff up a whole lot, and so would Dead You if Dead You wasn’t dead. *See also, the feeling of popping bubble wrap.
“Hang on,” I’ll bet you’re thinking. “These things beat The Internet? Like, why? You’re on it right now! I’m on it right now! We all are! This is a list of things I’d miss about being alive and you’ve ignored The Internet, which practically is my life! What are you doing? What’s all this shit about opening packages from Amazon!?”
Well, hold up, wait a minute, let me put my two cents in it.
See, The Internet is not your life. Your life is an ever-lasting quest to connect with other human beings, to satisfy your natural curiosity, and to experience pleasure.
Connection doesn’t mean having fantastic chemistry — it doesn’t even mean liking a person, it just means that in one way or another, your interests overlap. They may conflict — which on The Internet can lead to arguments and flame wars — or they may fit together — which on The Internet can lead to friendship and circle-jerking. You might seek direct connection in that you actually communicate with a person or group of people, or you might feel satisfied by simply observing a discussion silently or reading a post somewhere. The way you gain social validation on The Internet might reflect the way you do it in real life, or it might be completely different, but the point is that, on The Internet, we can satisfy that desire for connection at any time and in any way that we like.
Google, Wikipedia, and other sites allow us to learn more than anyone before us ever could, but the trade-off has been that most of us have seen our attention spans erode away. Being able to flash effortlessly from tab to tab at the first hint of boredom has made us fickle, and that can be both good and bad. It means that we are more attuned to our tastes than we could have ever been before, and that we’re good at finding what pleases and satisfies us intellectually, but it also means that we can block out ways of thinking that displeases or challenges our own much more easily. A completely open library where we keep shutting the doors.
Pleasure can be found in the little things, like watching funny cat videos or checking out of the front page of Reddit. Pleasure can be found in long form essays or fandom Tumblrs or illegally downloaded media. The Internet provides something for just about everyone (although some people might find more value in The Internet’s offerings than others) and so is an easy way to get pleasure. In fact, connecting with human beings and satisfying natural curiosity are just ways of gaining pleasure instead. Perhaps they aren’t the same kinds of pleasure, but in the end humans do what pleases them, and The Internet is the most easily accessible gateway to pleasure that humans have ever seen.
The five things that I’ve listed are not the only things you would miss, but to put The Internet on that list would ignore what it is about The Internet that we enjoy, and would put The Internet before human experience in our enjoyment of it. We don’t enjoy reading articles online so much as we enjoy stimulating our mind, hearing information from a different perspective, gaining insight into something, or simply laughing at how wrong the writer is.
It isn’t The Internet that we would miss. It is being alive that we’d miss, and The Internet is a place where some of the greatest things about being alive can be accessed at a moment’s notice. There’s no doubt in my mind that, given the chance, Dead You would happily have a device with a Wi-Fi connection in the coffin, but it’s the feeling of being human, connected and not alone, that you would miss. Not the click-bait and the hashtags.