Introspection · Weirdness

Confessions of A Digital Packrat


packratEver since I found out you could save conversations on MSN messenger, I turned on the feature and started saving messages.

Some 10 years, two computers and two laptops later, I still have them sitting in a little folder in my current laptop. They’re also saved on innumerable usb backups tossed in a corner of my desk drawer.  It’s been years since MSN messenger went out of use, and yet I still have them sitting there. It must have been at least two years since I even looked through them.

My close friend in high school was a boy who was also part of a band. I used to write reviews for his band, or listen to the music he sent me, and look over the album covers he send me.  My other close friend would send me his personal statements when he was applying for an undergrad program abroad. I myself went through a mystic phase where I found and downloaded a bunch of books on meditation, magic, karma, shit like that.

This was a good seven years ago. And, you’ve guessed it, I still have the artwork, the reviews, the music, the mystical ebooks and those personal statements.

In my first two years of universities, I went through a series of bad internet relationships. Like the chronicler I was and am,  I saved every scrap of them. I’d delete one thing or another, then I would have a fit of anxiety and would retrieve them from the recycle bin.

You have to understand that these were not good memories. They were painful reminders of stupid mistakes and abuse that I had put myself through or let myself undergo. I was not proud of a single moment. Merely seeing the folder would trigger shame, guilt, pain.

More seriously still – if my mother came across them, I would be made mincemeat out of.

But I still just couldn’t delete them. It took so much effort and several more bad experiences to finally permanently wipe the stuff off my hard disk.

Even then, when I recently found an old USB in my drawer and plugged it in, I found a backup folder (yes, I had backed up my worst memories). And once again, I had to deliberate long and hard before I chucked it in the bin.

When I first met the man who lighted up my life, I had the same problem. Facebook does not have a method to save your conversations to hard disk, so every few months or so I would copy paste the text into folders.  It got so bad that I regretted real life conversations, because I couldn’t save them for later.  I only stopped doing that when our conversations got so long and large that I couldn’t keep up with the chronicling.

I’ve never, ever emptied my recycle bin.

Until a month back, my desktop was FULL of useless icons. There was a Bradbury book (Zen in the Art of Writing) which had been sitting there, unread, for four years.

My downloads folder had a bunch of torrents whose original files I had downloaded, used, finished using. There were a bunch of setup files for programs I no longer used or intend to use.

Everything was a fucking mess. I knew that and yet I couldn’t do anything about it. I blamed lack of time, lack of organisation, laziness. But mostly it was the obsessive digital packrat in me, worrying about the loss of any Holy Information.

It was only last month that I realised I was having a problem trying to find the more important things on my laptop (like my CV, like my job interview letter) in the huge glunk of useless things I had collected.  My lack of organisation in all areas of my life – personal, work, studies – was compounded by my desperate need to save up useless stuff. And that is finally when I got around to clearing things out.

Even then, I tried hard not to delete stuff  as much as put it all into separate folders. But I did get rid of some of the glub, and I am proud of myself for doing that.  But this is a symptom of a larger problem, and one I think a lot of people probably suffer from. The ease with which the digital age allows information, photographs, memories and even relationships to be deleted is a hot topic. But not enough is said about the opposite, how hoarding can compound a problem.  Not enough is said about how difficult it can be to let go when sometimes memories are just a click away, when retrieval is so damningly easy.

A cluttered desk, it has been said, is the sign of a cluttered mind. And hoarding is just as bad if it is digital than if it is real life. One has to let go of many things, sooner or later, and that is part of life. It’s a good thing. I guess I still need to learn this lesson, and I hope confessing my sins helps 🙂

“Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities.” ~Dalai Lama

See you guys soon.

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2 thoughts on “Confessions of A Digital Packrat

  1. I read somewhere brain makes extra copies of those events and occurances that have a high shock or excitement value, so naturally it is tough to let go those experiences. Mostly not even a concious effort is required, one just needs to get busy with what lies ahead. I have a personal observation to share, that those who are way too focussed on future have a tendency to get back into past, especially at those junctures where future seems a little gloomy to them. On the contrary, those who are predominantly concerned about present remain stable and well-balanced.

    1. That’s a very zen thought, and I think you’re right. It’s important to stay in the present and dwell on neither the future nor the past. I think it’s hard to let go when you have so many digital copies boosting your mental copies of events though, but busying oneself helps, I have experienced that too.

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