Digital Detritus

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Digital detritus is a term used to describe unsightly debris that accrues as a result of the experience of digital living. Jill Burrows defines it as a trail of digital litter created by the consumption of digital goods/apps -- akin to a candy wrapper left behind after the candy's consumption.[1] In the same way that one's front lawn must be upkept and maintained, one's digital properties also experience entropy. Facebook is a breeding ground for digital detritus through the accumulation of applications and social invites. Social obligations and the need to save face prevent most users from unfriending those whose digital selves leave behind a trail of digital debris in their online interactions.

Of course, no one ever pauses to think that posting digital detritus to a friends wall might be just like taking the flavorless gum in your mouth and sticking it to your friend’s house wall, using the wrapper to cover it up and provide advertisement for the good you just consumed. If you don’t want a sticky mess on your wall, there is no option to instantly make all walls Teflon. It still introduces a burden of having to clean up after people. It takes one’s private wall and makes it public.[2]

Maggie Nichols points out that there are enough places to clean and maintain in real life. The increasing amount of attention paid to online spaces makes for a multiplicity of spaces that require work, be it cleaning, anti-spamming or updating one's profile.


  1. Burrows, Jill. Digital Detritus. Published 16 May 2011. Accessed 03 June 2011.
  2. Ibid.