We live in a digital age, an age which has gifted us the World Wide Web and the greatest library ever amassed. The internet is king; all knowing, all seeing and all powerful. Perhaps it really is the fount of all knowledge and of course, it is the very reason you’re able to read this. Yet, I can’t help thinking that if the internet really is that good, why does it so often appear to be inhabited by those with an intellect that appears somewhat stunted or at least malnourished. Hopefully, that doesn’t sound too harsh but it would seem that if a battle of wits were ever to take place in deepest cyber-space, then half the troops would be entering the mellay completely unarmed.
Of course you’re now wondering what this could possibly have to do with bicycles or even sleeping in a ditch and it’s a very reasonable thought but there is a link and it’s perhaps not as tenuous as you might initially assume … allow me to to explain.
Imagine you’re on the hunt for a new bivvy bag. You do what people do and ask for opinion via social media. You set out your criteria in an easy to understand manner and await the responses. Five out of the first half dozen replies will perhaps be somewhat off the mark and deviate from your outlined requirements but there will be one that’s perhaps worthy of consideration. However, the entire post will be drawn to sudden halt when Jon from Sandbach announces that ” XYZ is the best bivvy bag ever” and then gilds that particular lily with “END OF THREAD”. Unbeknown to Jon, there is a certain golden irony at play in that, the majority of the world including your mum, knows that XYZ bivvy bag is actually a pile of shit but in Jon’s defence, it’s the only pile of shit he’s ever actually tried and he just couldn’t resist the urge to join in. Really, it’s a shame that Jon hadn’t tempered his zealous enthusiasm with phrases such as, “In my opinion” or even “in my limited experience” but alas, Jon now looks like a dick and you’re absolutely none the wiser.
You admit defeat and decide that from now on you’re going to glean your information directly from the horses mouth. ‘ABC bivvy bag review’ is duly typed into everyone’s favourite search engine and with a press of the return key, the roller-coaster fires up once more. A couple of YouTube videos look promising but it transpires the presenters are speaking a foreign tongue, so the information available is limited. Perseverance eventually pays off though and you find a link to an on-line retailer who not only sells the bivvy in question but has three customer reviews. Things are a little puzzling at first because below a picture of what you believe might well be the ultimate bivvy bag are only two stars. Maybe your initial thoughts were wrong? Perhaps there’s a flaw in the design you hadn’t considered. You quickly click on ‘reviews’ so you can finally discover the truth. The first is from Ilene who bought the bivvy as a present for her husband. She freely admits to knowing nothing about the product but continues to express her disgust that although dispatched on time, it was delivered a day later than she anticipated due to unforeseen circumstances and a rather unfortunate bomb scare at the local sorting office. Sometime later, she concludes her first novel by saying, “due to this, I’m only able to give it one star”.
The second review is from Terry. He bought the bivvy himself but so far hasn’t managed to spend a night in it outside of his living room. However, he does say that it’s a nice shade of blue but that the zip pulls are a little chunkier than he thought they ought to be, so he’s only going to award three from a possible five (until he’s plucked up the courage to actually go outside). You scroll down the page to the final review hoping there’s an option to select ‘WTF do you think’ below ‘Did you find this review helpful’. Peter or ‘Peter sausage fingers’ as you now call him has penned the last review but sadly, after numerous attempts to decypher what’s written you can still only make out a few phrases and certainly nothing that constitutes a full sentence – ‘BUvVY B!g GUD’ and ‘NeEce BLu 2’ you assume to mean, it’s a good bivvy bag and that he’s happy with the colour too but really, who knows for sure what he means?
The internet is a truly wonderful thing but do remember that it’s a literal free for all, a place where fact and fantasy intertwine seamlessly and to misquote Jarvis Cocker, the random strangers who furnish you with opinion are more likely to be standing in a field than experts in one.