In so many different ways what occurs in the brick and mortar world is replicated in the digital sphere. Must of this digital duplication is positive. On the other hand, there are things that exist or occur in the “real world” that end up duplicated in some manner that prove to be less than positive. One such cross over from the brick and mortar world into cyberspace is hoarding. In recent times, psychological professionals have started to train their attention on what fairly can be called digital hoarding.
Before diving into an examination of digital hoarding as a very real phenomenon, it is important to understand the essentials of hoarding. Hoarding has become recognized as a specific type of mental health condition.
What is Hoarding?
The Mayo Clinic has developed a widely-accepted, succinct definition of hoarding, a description that is widely utilized in this day and age. According to the world-renowned clinic, hoarding is defined as:
Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.
Before being classified as a mental health condition in its own right, hoarding disorder was considered a type of obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD. Ultimately, psychological researchers and practitioners came to realize that placing hoarding under the OCD umbrella was not a good fit.
At this juncture in time, general hoarding disorder, pet hoarding disorder, and what is developing as digital hoarding disorder are all maintained under the broad umbrella of general hoarding disorder. Currently, there movement in the psychological community to establish pet hoarding in its own mental health condition classification. One might imagine that the same will happen in the future in regard to what is developing as digital hoarding or digital hoarding disorder.
How is Digital Hoarding Defined?
Presently, there remains some fluidity as to how digital hoarding is defined. With that noted, the developing definition of digital hoarding is the accumulation of digital files of different types to a point that perspective is lost. The accumulation of digital files reaches a juncture that it induces significant stress because of the associated disorganization. The ultimate negative impact of digital hoarding can be so pervasive and profound that that it is akin to what happens with different types of diseases and conditions that have their genesis in the brick and mortar world.
Negative Impact of Digital Hoarding
As is the case with a myriad of different types of diseases or conditions, including brick and mortar world hoarding, digital hoarding exhibits itself in a variety of ways and negatively impacts a person’s life in different ways. These include:
- Increased stress
- Decreased productivity
- Development of cybersecurity issues
Stress increases in a number of ways as a result of digital hoarding. These shear disorganization of a digital work environment as a result of digital hoarding leaves a person feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, even distressed in a generalized way. Stress is further enhanced because a person afflicted by digital hoarding ends up incapable of accomplishing tasks in a steady, efficient manner. Indeed, a digital hoarder literally can end up spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find needed items in the cyber clutter.
In addition to increased stress, an issued with digital hoarding can end up in decreased productivity. As noted, the inability to find needed items in the cyber clutter will negatively impact productivity, oftentimes significantly so. This reality can have even more significantly harmful effects. For example, if a person relies on the digital sphere to make a living, a negative impact on productivity can adversely impact the bottom line.
Development of Cybersecurity Issues
Digital hoarding can also have a detrimental impact on overall cybersecurity. When a person is awash in the level of disorganization associated with digital hoarding he or she is not likely to be tending to other important issues, including maintaining appropriate cybersecurity protocols. In addition, digital clutter in and of itself renders a computer or system far more vulnerable to cyberattack.
Bear in mind that this trio of common damages caused by digital hoarding are interrelated. They feed off of one another, each aggravating the others.
Types of Items that are Digitally Hoarded
As is the case with hoarding in the brick and mortar world, the types of items that end up digitally hoarded are unique to a particular individual. With that said, common types of items that more commonly are digitally hoarded include:
- Photos and images
- Written documents
- Other documents
- Software programs
Oftentimes, a person that falls into the category of a digital hoarder maintains an inordinate number of different items on the reference list presented here.
Research Regarding Digital Hoarding
In very recent times research has commenced regarding digital hoarding. One of the more extensive studies was undertaken by Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. This study into digital hoarding involved 840 people. The study specifically focused on the interrelationship between digital habits and stress. A key element of the study was examining the impact of hoarding items and its connection with stress and other negative consequences.
One important outcome realized from this particular research study was that the Cloud and Google Drive appear to be significant contributors to digital hoarding for some people. In the end, this was not a surprising reveal considering the fact that these resources make storing significant amounts of data easy.
Professional Assistance for Digital Hoarding
As has been referenced more than once, concepts associated with digital hoarding are really only in a developmental stage at this time. Nonetheless, there are mental health professionals who truly are developing a keener understanding that digital hoarding is a real malady that oftentimes requires professional intervention and assistance in order to address properly. As a result, there are therapists that are becoming more adept at assisting people facing digital hoarding issues. In addition, support groups and group therapy are being created at this point in time.