Digital Packrat Vs Digital Hoarder

We've seen the pictures of a home jam-packed with stuff by an obsessive hoarder. Can the same thing happen in our new fast paced digital world?

"I have about 2000 pictures on my camera and on my computer," said UNO student Katie Mowery in an interview with WOWT 6 News.

Mowery has been gobbling up storage space on her digital devices.

"Maybe I should look into cleaning. But a lot of them I keep because of classes I will take in future years and things like that "

Emily Blaney is a sophomore at UNO, she has homework files on her computer that date back 6 years to her freshman year in high school.

"I don't really need them," she said. "But I still think that maybe I'm going to take a class that I may use them or need them, so yeah."

Christiana Bratiotis, PhD, LICSW is an assistant professor at UNO and an expert on hoarding .

"People who digitally hoard and object hoard lose sight of what it is that they have," she said. "They keep it initially with a thought that I might need this someday or this information might be useful to me at some point in the future, that's really one of the problematic thoughts that drives the saving."

According to Dr. Bratiotis, there is a line that 5% of the population has crossed leading to an unhealthy hoarding obsession.

"And really we look at the criteria of causing interference, if some part of their life is compromised. When we see people in clinical treatment, when they come in for help, many times they will describe that they are digital hoarders as well as object hoarders."

That compulsive behavior for an object hoarder creates the kind of household mess that is easily identifiable but the clutter in a digital world is buried out of sight.

Dr. Bratiotis did not consider the students we interviewed for this story to be digital hoarders, more of a "digital packrat."

"We do hope that for someone with a digital hoarding problem is that they can get to the point of being able to let go of some of those files. It can be useful to keep some pieces of information but actually making the decision and deleting those files is a way that some will get better if you will from their hoarding problem."

For most of us, the excess files are more of a nuisance.

UNO student Paige Perry isn't concerned about her digital storage habits. "If worse came to worse I would just get a new computer..".


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