Word Garbage

Here's my piece published in the Free Paper being handed out around Toronto this weekend.

There is garbage everywhere. It’s at the curb, on the side of the highway, overflowing from bins, captured in video clips of stinking bulldozed mountains. What about word garbage? Is anyone trying to figure out if we can send our spam to Michigan? our e-mails (210 billion a day) to Wawa? our word-junk into space?

We spew forth, confident in the endless free storage and un-juried public platform offered up by the internet. We are over-producing words but are we getting any more literate?

The illusive expert they says 900,000 daily new blog articles get posted, enough to fill the pages of the New York Times for 19 years. I contribute regularly to this heap. Does this freak anyone else out?

Few seem to fret and fuss about their contribution to word pollution. Clarity and succinctness have given way to literary device and intentional obfuscation all of which contribute to the growing heap. Lengthy poems and philosophical treatises are inserted into perfectly good stories like detours or pirouettes in the middle of a hike. Even beautifully executed they add to the pile. Is humanity unable to get to the point?

It’s no help that for the most part judgment and discrimination is now exercised on the consumer, not the producer end. As a reader that burden irks me.

Globally we live by the word like we never have before but it often seems any word will do. If I’m to believe the stats offered up on the internet there are 7 billion people in the world. 750 million of them are on facebook with 700,000 new members joining daily. 5 million tweet a day.

What is everyone saying? Gems of scientific breakthrough, literary exquisiteness, keys to ending world hunger? If so they are buried amidst reams of observations, quips, stories, rants, essays, poems, comments on what I ate for lunch, shopping lists we deem worthy of sharing.

There’s always delete and the little trash icon with the satisfying sound that accompanies its use. But where do they go? What happens on-line stays on-line we are warned. Is deletion an illusion? Are words bio-degradable?

I fear one day the internet, our word-garbage compactor, will ingest one tweet too many and then blow, barfing all those words – the great, the mediocre, the offensive, back at us in a un-natural toxic word jumble disaster.

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