where the writers are
DIGITAL HOARDING

Today I realized I’d used up half of my allotted gmail space. A panic hit me, not unlike the panic that used to set in when I thought about having to one day empty my mother’s stuffed-to-the-gills house. That “day” turned out to last six weeks. So once a year, I go through my own house and do a massive purge to assure myself I’m not becoming a hoarder, too. But clear out years of emails? Impossible. Does that make me a digital hoarder? 

I know someone who clears out his email Inbox every day. It would never occur to me to do such a thing. He, on the other hand, couldn’t imagine not doing it. He said, “I read it, deal with it, and delete it. If I think I’ll need to refer back to it I put it in a folder. When I deal with it in the future, I delete it. I live for an empty Inbox.”

It made me feel dizzy, anxious, and slightly nauseous imagining an Inbox with nothing in it.

Over the years, my internal and external hard drives have grown bigger and bigger so I can back up more and more. I also copy my most important files onto a thumb drive and once a day all new files on one computer are saved onto my other computer as well. In case my house should burn down, I have Carbonite magically, silently, backing up files throughout the day in cyberspace. Yes, it scares me, though not as much as losing the files.

Still, at least once a month, I manage to go looking for something on my computer only to discover it’s irrevocably disappeared. You do not want to be around me when that happens. When I finally accept that it is gone for good, I become even more determined to save everything. Is this any different from my mother's reasoning for not being able to throw something out: "I may need it someday." I don't think so.

I was talking to Danielle Hatfield and Brandon Pierce at experiencefarm.com about my "digital hoarding" and discovered that they're on the same compulsive wavelength. But when I confessed, “I wish I could save all of my stuff on Facebook and Twitter. They’re snapshots of a moment in time. It would be interesting to look back on them years from now” – Brandon brought me back down to earth. He said, “Just think of them as conversations. The good ones you'll remember.”

I want to believe him, but I've already had occasions where I've asked myself "What was that post about such and such" and been unable to readily unearth it. I do, however, have to stop the madness somewhere. So there won’t be an intervention over saving my trove of social media blatherings. Those emails that keep mounting up though . . . Know a Delete-phobics Anonymous group I can join?