November 2, 2012

Pack rats in an Internet age

As we speak, my wife is busy building a new blog. Her purpose? To commit to journaling about finishing a new Pinterest activity each day. Rather than just seeing things she likes and pinning them to her boards, she's planning to actually go back and put some of those creative ideas into action.

I think it's a great idea, but it got me thinking about how our Internet activity may often be a window into our offline tendencies. Take a hoarder, for example. If I'm a pack rat offline, how could that manifest itself on the Internet? I may not be a full-blown hoarder, but I know the tendency is there - the wallet full of old restaurant receipts, or the drawer full of long processed and forgotten mail can testify to that. Being married to Laura has definitely helped, but it still rears its ugly head every now and then (e.g. my bookshelf of bargain books). On the computer, however, there are no constraints. A couple examples of my digital hoarding include:

  • E-mail - it's an undeniable reality that I simply cannot delete an e-mail. That's a small exaggeration, but close. I have gotten better recently (I delete junk mail and automated messages), but even now I keep every message that contains genuine personal communication or may contain some information that might at some point become even remotely useful. This is made possible by ever increasing e-mail storage capabilities and unlimited archive folders. If you asked me, I could persuasively argue that my little habit has been beneficial. Many times during my work life, I've been able to resolve a dilemma or dispute by going back to an e-mail from 2 years ago. However, 80% of it is absolutely useless.
  • Free kindle books - I receive an e-mail every day with 30-40 new free books for the Amazon Kindle, and throughout the week on Facebook and various blogs I come across many other Kindle deals and freebies. Anytime I find a very cheap or free one of interest I snatch it up, to the point that I have now about 500 very good e-books vying for my reading attention. Since it's all digital, it takes up no space in the house (which is good), but it still clutters my brain and leaves me feeling like there is so much to catch up with (which is bad).
What are some other ways that our real world weaknesses are manifest in our Internet usage, and maybe even exacerbated by the fact that the digital component conceals the impact?


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