Falling Prey To Digital Hoarding & How We Can Curb It

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Digital Hoarding
Image Credits: Unsplash

‘Photo dump’ is a new trend on Instagram these days. It is exactly what it is called, a dump of pictures that are senselessly posted on the platform. While a photo dump is largely restricted to being a trend on Instagram, the real question I want to ask you is, how much dump have you really accumulated on your devices? If you are someone who has the habit of storing data on every device and cloud storage you own, regardless of its relevance, you are a victim of digital hoarding. 

Digital Hoarding? What’s that? 

Before understanding what digital hoarding means, it’s important to know what the word ‘hoarding’ means. It is a condition in which one feels the compelling need to collect things of little or zero value and finds difficulty in discarding those things. 

Digital Hoarding is a condition wherein a person experiences the compulsive need to collect digital data, finds it difficult to discard that data, and feels like storing it on their device with no real and relevant purpose.  

Today, we all demand and own devices having a large storage capacity. Screenshots, memes, WhatsApp images and videos, soft copies of bills/receipts received online, thousands of emails, selfies, photographs, notes, documents, etc have all taken up spaces in our devices. 

Social media especially has encouraged digital hoarding among people. Social media features like the ‘save’ button on Instagram and Facebook, or ‘watch later’ option on Youtube or even the ‘star’ option of Gmail leads to the hoarding of data. Furthermore, in-built cameras and the facility to take screenshots and download content available online too have led to digital hoarding by people. 

The reasons why people hoard digital content are varied. Some engage in hoarding digital content thinking it might be useful to them sometime in the future, some find it worthy enough to share that content with others, and some simply do it because they like the content and simply want to ‘have’ it. 

Digital hoarding involves two main characteristics: 

Constant acquisition: We are constantly acquiring data, willingly and unwillingly. Right from the ‘’Good Morning’’ WhatsApp images from uncles and aunts to you saving a social media post of ‘‘how to make restaurant-style spaghetti pasta at home easily within minutes”, we are constantly acquiring data. 

Experiencing distress discarding digital content: We are often reluctant to discard or delete the content thinking what if we need it for some purpose? We should have it ‘just in case…’ We experience distress by just thinking about deleting the saved content because we place a high value on it even though in actuality it might not hold any value at all. 

On the surface, it might look like it’s not a big deal, but digital hoarding can have an adverse impact on our mental health. Since you attach yourself emotionally to any digital content you acquire, it can cause you distress when the need to get rid of it arises. Example: a screenshot you take that shows some celebrity has liked your comment on their post, is something you feel like keeping because it means something to you. The thought of deleting it will cause you a certain amount of distress. 

Further, the clutter and haphazard manner in which the data is stored can lead to the development of anxiety over a period of time when the dump you have accumulated gives you a hard time finding that one document that is actually of importance to you. This way digital hoarding can also interfere with your day-to-day work. 

So what can you do to curb it? 

  • Clean your devices from time to time. Choose a time/day once a month and get rid of all the data that you won’t require any longer. Sometimes, when you come across digital content, you might feel it’s important to acquire it at that moment. The same content can seem irrelevant a month later. 
  • Don’t encourage the habit of acquisition. Before you save or feel like hoarding any content, ask yourself, “do you really need it?”
  • Organise your files, emails, pictures and videos so that you don’t find yourself drowning in the clutter. 
  • Get rid of the accounts, applications, group chats and even online forums/communities you no longer actively use or participate in. 

If you find it excessively difficult to discard the habit of hoarding, it’s best to seek professional help. 

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