Image by Brad Fitzpatrick
As a digital media nerd, I have no problem managing a billion different accounts on the Internet. From social networking sites to bank accounts, I’ve accumulated about 30-40 different logins from the past 5 years. I’m definitely not a pack rat by any means, but I’m starting to feel like I have too much junk in my (digital) trunk.
Just like my spring cleaning thought process, I tried to justify the need for my online “memberships”. I tried to comprehend my new pack rat status by slicing and dicing the facts. Why is it that I am able to throw away material items that I don’t need, but I don’t mind hoarding digital goods?
There’s the obvious tangible factor: We cannot physically hold digital items such as photos, videos, documents, spreadsheets, and logins. It is easy for these items to accumulate quickly and massively because they don’t take up any physical space. Yet, they still take up digital space, and eventually we find ourselves upgrading our USBs, memory cards, and hard drives faster than are dogs age. The rate at which we build up digital baggage is becoming faster by day, and soon enough terabytes will no longer be cool for school.
This leads me to entertain the idea that maybe we are all pack rats deep down inside, and that the digital revolution has forced us to become self aware about the importance of prioritizing and organizing the things we own. Or maybe I’m just alone and wallowing in self pity that my digital noise is growing into a bigger beast than I thought I could handle.
The truth is I’m not a slob, but I’m not obsessively compulsive about a little chaos either. I do appreciate order with my digital items, though. I like to keep my digital photos organized in an external hard drive, sorted by folders, by year, by month, and by occasion. I keep a neat playlist for all my mp3 files, so that I can easily access music depending on my mood or the company I am with.
If I am neither a slob nor freakishly neat, why is all this digital noise getting to the best of me? Either way, I’m starting my spring cleaning a bit early this year, and I’m going to focus on all my intangible digital things first.
Do my skinny jeans still fit? (Do I really need a login to all those brain sucking entertainment sites that I relied on during my procrastinating college days?)
Is it necessary that I own my own a Hallmark membership card? (How many different online accounts do I need to manage my air and hotel mileage points?)
Why is it that I own five different colors of the same shirt? (Why do I need three different sites to access music?)
As I am thinking about different ways to organize, I start reverting back to my old habit of rationalizing the need to doing things. I convince myself that as long as the digital junk in my trunk are full of good things, then it really can’t be all that bad.
But when is enough… enough? Isn’t there a saying that says too much of a good thing is a bad thing?
Our mothers always told us to keep everything in moderation. So I took a stab at my laundry list of digital membership accounts and started prioritizing.
- Organize by work, personal, and academic (if applicable) websites using favorite folders in your Internet browser. Each folder shouldn’t contain more than 10 different websites, unless they absolutely do not have other folders to belong to.
- Combine memberships that accumulate points. Most online travel websites have a list of partners they share miles and points with. Choose one or two memberships you would like to stay loyal with based on frequency of use and diversity of partnerships. If you can’t trim, then use Points.com to transfer your earnings.
- Browse all the entertainment sites you want, but keep loyalty to a minimum. Don’t limit yourself from the freedom of Internet browsing, but keeping frequently visited sites to a minimum (about 3-10) will take digital baggage off your shoulders.
It’s a start. I don’t know if my Martha Stewart approach will help reduce the digital noise in my life, but organizing never hurt nobody. If you find a better solution, by all means, share the wealth. I think that one day, there will be a break through digital phenomenon that could help us face this more easily, similar to how RSS feeds made syndication almost effortless to use. Until then, I suppose I’ll rely on the old school trial and error approach.
I know I’m not alone. Bring on the noise, but personally I need to start keeping my digital noise from growing exponentially before I start seeking permanent digital asylum.