1. Refuse; garbage.
2. Worthless material.
3. Foolish discourse; nonsense.
It’s not uncommon these days to see images of people raking through bins or clambering about rubbish heaps the world over looking for stuff to keep them going for that day. It’s pitiful but it’s happening. For most of us the only connection we have with that world it contributing to the piles of trash by lugging a black bag or two down to the wheelie bins out back once or twice a week. Of course there’s rubbish and there’s rubbish. I am all in favour of the current move towards recycling; it’s long overdue. But what I’m talking about are people digging through refuse for sustenance.
Which brings me to the Internet. I’m sure when they first came up with the notion of an information superhighway they never, not in their wildest dreams, would’ve imagined that it could get clogged up and as quickly as it has with drivel, tosh, codswallop and nonsense. And let’s face it there is a lot of drivel, tosh, codswallop and nonsense online these days. Of course what one person considers useless or a waste of time is another man’s lucky find and in every pile of junk there’ll be stuff that someone else could make good use of. My wife and I stuck stuff out the back door a while back—old computer hardware, a dead microwave, some bits of furniture—and before the Council could even arrive to collect them they’d gone; someone had found a use for them. And that’s just great. There’s a lot of recycling on the Internet. Just look up a famous quote and you’ll find a dozen or two sites with that exact quote and it’s obvious that most have copied it from the same source which is why the same misquotes get perpetuated. They’re not passing it off as original material (well, some do) but they are assisting in the dissemination of
information and that’s a good thing on the whole.
When those kids in India set out in the morning no one hands them a wee map telling them where all the good stuff’s been dumped earlier in the day. No, they just pick a spot and see what turns up. Some days they’re lucky and some days not so much. And that’s what the Internet’s like. I’m thinking especially about social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and the like. Every day, every minute of the day, people are posting comments and tweets and it never ends and every morning you get up and there are eight hours—assuming you’ve been a good boy or girl and gone to bed at a decent hour—waiting for you to trawl through to see if there’s anything interesting, anything worth reading and maybe even sharing with your friends. But most of it is, for want of a better word, rubbish. Unless you just happen to have friends and family who only post meaningful and relevant stuff on their timelines. But most don’t. They post kittens and cartoons and political comment and pictures of indecent-looking vegetables and news about their new book (and since you’re a writer and all your friends are writers they all have new books) and you start to wonder what you’re actually looking for on Facebook or Twitter or whatever.
Maybe it’s an age thing. I only follow eleven people on Twitter (because most of the people I’d want to follow I already follow on Facebook and/or read their blogs) and apart from Stephen Fry—I think it’s a law that everyone has to follow Stephen Fry—most aren’t even particularly chatty and I still feel the number of tweets are oppressive and not relevant to me in any way, shape or form. But every day—dutifully (I’m big on duty)—I wade through Facebook and Twitter looking for some sustenance. And, to be fair, most days I find a few scraps, occasionally a tasty morsel even but what rigmarole to have to go through. Christ knows how people with hundreds or (perish the thought) thousands of friends-so-called cope. Well, they don’t. They do the best they can with the time they have but just how much good stuff must they be missing? Tons.
I have a rule when I write. It should be meaningful. It should be relevant. It should serve a purpose. That goes for the poetry as much as the novels and nonfiction stuff like this. What right do I have to waste people’s time? I resent my time being wasted and so I would be a hypocrite if I went ahead and wasted other people’s time. Their time is every bit as precious to them as my time is to me. Maybe even more so since most other people out there have jobs and lives that use up most of their weeks and maybe all they have free are a couple of hours at the end of the day and, seriously, what can one do with a couple of hours? It takes me the best part of an hour every day to scan my tweets, comments, e-mails and RSS feeds before I do a damn thing and, as I’ve said, I don’t even follow that many people and I’ve recently taken an axe to the blogs I follow because I was getting nothing out of them and making no contributions toward them by means of comments. So they went.
All I’m saying is: Think before you tell Facebook what’s on your mind. Think before you like something. Think before you comment. Think before you share. It’s simply maths. If it takes you two seconds to decide not to post something then you’ve saved dozens of people from having to read it and, okay, you might only be saving them two or three seconds but if we all did it we might be able to claw back a whole minute, maybe two every day.
No, you’re right, there’s no point really, is there? What could you possibly do with two minutes? But that’s a quarter of an hour a week, an hour a month, half a day a year. When I was a kid we studied Holland and they talked about something called land reclamation which is the process of creating new land from seas, riverbeds or lakes. Well time reclamation works in much the same way. Land is valuable. Time is valuable. You can build on both, if you have enough.