An Audrey Hepburn black and white canvas, a Marilyn Monroe box set, and a coffee book collection neatly arranged. Other than a few trinkets and artefacts showcasing who I am, my room is plain. Organised. I never hoard; I rejoice in waving goodbye to unloved pieces. Click on my laptop and browse my phone however, and you’ll notice digital hoarding.
Realising a problem
600 photos deleted last month. I felt ecstatic. Most were VSCO filtered shots, and I believe it’s only worth keeping original files. My old moody A4 preset doesn’t belong with my bright N1. Some of my deleted images captured repetitive sunshine views and buildings abroad. Others were random selfies and frozen moments bearing no significance.
You would think with such a clear out, my digital hoarding is non-existent. I haven’t confessed to the thousand photos saved on Google Drive, my phone is running on limited space and I continue emailing myself photos I would hate to lose. I’ve prepared myself for every scenario, especially as my teenage self always forgot to back-up memories.
I know there’s a problem because I struggle to find things. A recent BBC article on digital hoarding shared professor Jo Ann Oravec’s opinion: “If they get to that point where they’ve become overwhelmed by the data that they’ve got… that may indicate that there’s some kind of problem.”
Digital hoarding vs. traditional
Considering how tidy and organised my physical objects are, I’m surprised I struggle so much online. While I’m not as extreme as some cases – a man in Amsterdam saves 1,000 digital photos a day – I do find what I have overwhelming. Which I believe is the main point. As a writer, my files bury countless Word docs and my emails burden work tasks and updates.
I’m petrified of deleting them. What if I need a work email in the future? What if I have to prove I worked with a brand and need an email from them confirming our collaboration? In 2016, Mel magazine discussed digital hoarding and writer Devon Maloney said “Digital hoarding is especially slippery because these days everyone does it, even if just by accident.”
While traditional hoarding associates emotional attachments to objects, digital hoarding combines emotions with anxiety and fears of deletion. We’re encouraged to invest in the Cloud and Drive, and we’re also bombarded with spam, pointless DM’s and subscription emails we never subscribed to. There’s a lazy element to overfilled inboxes along with an obsession to keep ‘just in case’.
Where to begin?
Close friends know I’m reckless digitally. Two websites I use to write for have shut down and I didn’t screenshot or save the articles I wrote for them. My response, they’re old and not meaningful today. Thousands of beloved photos have disappeared from phones breaking and invisible memory cards. Though I like digital hoarding, I have learnt to move forward.
Perhaps my ability to remember past events helps me stay calm. Don’t we all love saying it’s great to look back on past images? We spend 5 minutes once in a blue moon reminiscing, before we feel present issues need attending to. Is it healthy to put Marie Kondo’s methods on our digital space? To scroll through our files and ask if they make us feel good?
Healthline.com shares suggestions on where to begin. Setting up filters, auditing each month as well as checking through your downloads folder on a weekly basis. Despite my Pinterest, I have a habit of saving ‘inspiration’ screenshots. Like old images, I rarely see them.
What will happen in the future?
When my grandmother passed away, she left a book she put together, tracing back my family line from the 1700’s. She left her wedding album, a bag full of photos of my grandparents and ancestors, in addition to some treasured photo albums. How will future generations cope when their loved ones leave thousands upon thousands of images, files and digital stuff?
Is more always more? Part of me wants to separate my special photos from the not so special. Me overlooking the views of Barcelona – keep; me standing by a white wall in my house – feel free to delete. We are the generation who love taking photos for the sake of taking. At what point do we stop?
Are you a digital hoarder? How easy it to remove old files?