I’ve come to the conclusion this past year I’m a digital hoarder. It’s not uncommon either.

With each year that passes in the age of connected consumerism, blogs and tech websites echo the same problem. We seem to be obsessed with collecting digital junk. In fact, some prominent authors are suggesting an Information Diet.

Count the messages in your inbox. Consider your digital photos. How about your hard drives? How much stuff are we collecting today and for what purpose?

Compulsive hoarding is a real problem in the land of plenty. The popular show “Hoarders” on (off all channels) A&E portray extreme cases of individuals who pile their homes with a cluttered mess altering their relationships and personal lives. These are extreme cases effecting 2% to 5% of the American population and I’m sure most of us have more than we can use.

Lurking in the background, we may be falling into another trap with digital hoarding. From photos to files, websites, videos and other remnants of our post PC lifestyle, we’re collecting way more data than we need.

One might argue that digital files don’t take up much physical space. Kevin Kelly suggests in his book, “What Technology Wants” our bits of information and keepsakes are consuming our computers and our most important resource – time. The adage “The Things You Own End Up Owning You” is something to consider as we pile on our digital troves.

New Year’s Resolutions are made to broken and I’m far from going cold-turkey. However, I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with the amount of data that exists on computers, CDs, DVDs, hard drives and cloud storage services.

My closet is filled with negatives, tarnished photos and a few boxes of family treasures that existed before digital data. These include 8mm films of early family and a few paper trail remnants of my ancestors. There are 35mm negatives and various albums from my own pre-digital lifestyle. Fortunately – this type of media has virtually come to a halt.

Truth is – we’re not collecting physical media anymore.

Instead, we’re collecting terrabytes of “big data” in one form another and there are companies who are already tapping into this new obsession with cloud services popping up like storage units in old shopping centers. Apple’s new Cloud Storage Facility located in North Carolina is hardly a boon for the local job market, but it will store plenty of digital “stuff.”

 

 

Is Dropbox the new commercial storage unit?

I’m ashamed to admit I probably have two large boxes of CDs and DVDs that go back 15 years filled with information I’ll probably never use. Online, there are thousands of bookmarks and link resources that serve as notes for future work – or so I think. Although I like the idea of saving them, it’s hard to go back in time with a flood arriving every day.

My email inbox used to be something I tried to sort and manage effectively, but I gave up on that last year. The new stream is 16,000 deep from the last twelve months and I’m still reluctant to press the delete button. It’s actually easier to retain it than delete it.

Some psychologists suggest compulsive hoarding may be as instinctive as squirrels that store nuts and human beings gather food for winter. I also suspect there’s some remnant in our psyche that believe these artifacts have some value for our relatives or perhaps a future digital archeologist. Still, there’s some anxiety related to purging our lives of this clutter.

Perhaps on the other hand, my own war with my ego and narcissistic footprint is consuming my own peace of mind.

Still yet, some scientists refer to the brain’s natural drug addiction to dopamine (produced natural by our brain) as reason for our fascination with technology and they can’t be all that far from the truth.

So, I’m starting my first step of my 12-step program this year for information overload and digital hoarding. No silver bullets today – I’m just becoming aware of a problem. Perhaps in another generation, we’ll look back upon this rabid attachment to our gadgets and the bytes that make up our digital collective and wonder where all our time went.

There are several suggestions and best practices to avoid being a digital packrat and I’ve looking into new goals this year to filter the deluge.  Attached with this entry are several other confessions and possible scenarios to help with your own malady.

In the meantime, I’m intrigued by this article from the New York Times about the ‘The Joy of Quiet.” I’m also convinced that the children of tomorrow will as the author suggests – “may actually be ahead of us, in terms of sensing not what’s new, but what’s essential.”