On digital hoarding

hoarderWhen I read this morning’s ReadWriteWeb post about digital hoarding by Taylor Hatmaker, I discovered a kindred spirit amid the sea of inbox zero fanatics and Evernote acolytes.

For I, like Hatmaker, collect digital scraps of information for later reading and action, but it piles up in the cloud, unread and unacted upon. My collection of favorited items from the Amazon River that is my Twitter stream long ago surpassed 1,000, and my Google Reader has too many unread items to even fathom. (I do occasionally read some of the stories that flow through that stream. That’s how I discovered Hatmaker’s essay this morning.) Email, too, is out of control — both the work account and the personal one — and is compounded by my habit of blind copying myself on certain emails that will require me to follow up when the recipients of those messages inevitably ignore their responsibility for whatever deal we’ve struck. (Credit due to Getting Things Done guru David Allen for this idea, which has helped me keep better tabs on projects but has done nothing to help alleviate my digital hoarding tendencies.)

The Internet, the cloud, cheap server space and social media tools have all made it easier to collect digital stuff and save it for — For what, exactly? For later? For ever?

So, yeah. Digital hoarder, c’est moi.

That used to bother me. But I’ve learned to come to terms to this aspect of my personality. As much as I love the idea of productivity and clearing clutter from my digital and physical life, I realize that it will never happen.

Hatmaker also knows this.

“I’m never even going to organize my hoard,” she writes. “I’m never going to straighten out my Evernote tags or my Gmail labels or all of those saved stories on Read It Later, Pocket or Instapaper. I am an absolutely abysmal digital gardener, just like I am a terrible real gardener. I can hardly remember to keep my cat alive in real life – and she has a robust built-in reminder system.”

This makes me smile.

Digital hoarders love digital company, I guess.

So if you’re one of us, know that you are not alone.

Photo: “Homeless hoarder,” by Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious on Flickr.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

4 thoughts on “On digital hoarding”

  1. I’m the complete opposite: I’m a digital purger. I get rid of everything as quickly as possible: RSS feeds, email, DMs, etc. I know I’ll never go back to it. I only save things for reference ‘just in case’. If I don’t get rid of things ASAP, it really irks me. I had given up on Google Reader because I had thousands of things to read, and I realized ‘is this really helping to keep me informed’? Now I dedicate time to making sure that I get it to 0 often throughout the day and I find I’m better informed, and ahead of the RT’s on Twitter. So, time spent in one place for me, means less in another. Interesting to learn how we all deal differently with the flow of information!

    1. Kudos to you, Jessica, on your ability to purge all that information. I admire that discipline. But as you say, it is interesting to learn how we all deal differently with information flow. It would probably be interesting to view that also in relation to personality types, such as the Myers-Briggs types. I’m an INTP, and the P (“perceiving”) vs. the J (“judging”) seems to be the point of division in terms of how information is processed and dispensed with.

      I’m actually better at purging email than I have been in the past, but much of the time I save stuff so I have a digital paper trail to cover myself. It’s unfortunate that I think I have to do that so often, but I’ve learned over the years that sometimes you have to recall what was put in writing (even email) in order to keep yourself from blame. Ah, life in a bureaucracy.

  2. Google Reader: There’s a button to the right of “x unread items” that says “mark all read” viola! problem solved.
    I never know what to do with old emails in my inbox and old sent items….

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