Netizens, beware of your digital trash!

We, as a whole, are actively (not to mention very flippantly) creating heaps and heaps of digital garbage. Many years ago, we did the same thing with physical trash – mindlessly tossing it out the back door for the garbage man to collect. We paid little mind to where it all went, much to the chagrin of Mother Nature. This was before overflowing dumps and toxic landfill runoff, of course – the Toxic Avengers taught us that lesson. Now, we are being groomed as a culture to recycle when it’s convenient and to try to think about the consequences of dumping our soda cans and Big Mac wrappers in the trash.

But digitally, this has never been an issue. We can cmd+shift+delete (i.e., empty the trash for all you non geeks) all we want, because those text and music files just, poof!, disappear. But, what happens when we move to cloud-based computing systems, where will it all go? Will we have a Garbage Island “the size of Texas” made of discarded .mov clips and .doc files somewhere out in the middle of the cyberocean? And what’s going to happen to all the Rick Springfield GeoCities fan pages, inactive Foursquare places, abandoned MySpace profiles and the entirety of Second Life? We can’t really be sure. But we do know that, while it may not take up physical space, digital trash is still out there creating clutter as it waits for a Google Bot to pick it up and serve it to an unsuspecting netizen.

Based on this, do we, as law abiding netizens, have a responsibility to clean up after our digital selves? It seems, just as we have a responsibility to keep our physical trash out of other’s (and nature’s) way, that the same should apply digitally. So, please, if you get married and no longer need your dating profile or you’re just so over twitter, do us all a favor and take care of your business. We all have a responsibility to keep the internet clean.

Written by Ben Cheney Photo via