Dunbar: We are all electronic hoarders


Blair Dunbar, Columnist

My grandmother is a true hoarder. She has been ever since I can remember. For as long as I can remember, she has had the same 1972 National Geographic magazine sitting in her basement bathroom. My grandfather had 10,000 books, stacked from floor to ceiling of the dining room at dinner. Liquor bottles locked in her cupboards had turned to pure sugar. Recently, I had to help my grandmother move from her townhouse to a small apartment in the retirement community in which she lives. During the move, I was shocked by how little she had actually thrown out during her initial move.

I don’t keep nearly as many physical objects as my grandmother does, but I’ve recently realized that nowadays, thanks to technology, we’re all hoarders. I recently broke up with my boyfriend, and I wanted to delete a recent picture of us together from my phone. Unfortunately, when I tried to do so, I couldn’t. There was no delete button. I tried “deleting” his contact information. Turns out, I couldn’t delete it completely. Typing in his first name immediately prompted his number. It would seem that my cell phone wants me to be a bit of a hoarder.

The world has given us cell phones and tablets, iPods and laptops. We have all these different electronic devices, each with its own memory. With products like iCloud, all our electronics are automatically synced. We might try to delete a photo on our phone but it reappears once that sign pops up on iTunes reading, “You have items on your phone that are not on your computer. Would you like to transfer them back?” Sites such as Pinterest and Facebook publish photos and text boxes to the Internet, and once something is on the Internet, it’s there forever.

We used to be able to pack up the memories of our boyfriends into cardboard boxes and put them under the bed, or cut out friends from our lives. But now? It seems inevitable that somewhere along the line we are bound to run into an old number or message or photo that reminds us of times past. How many times have your friends posted long-lost pictures of you from grade school or have your parents received friend requests from old high school classmates? Heck, even the University Archives has digitized and uploaded about a hundred years of back issues of The Daily. Even when time has yellowed the pages to such an extent that they crack in your hands, you will still be able to look up the sports news from 1917. No one and nothing is ever truly gone.

In this way, we’re all hoarders like my grandmother, except not necessarily by choice. We also don’t need to call in a dumpster when we try to move houses. I can’t tell yet if this electronic saving is good or bad. Right now, I really wish I could delete my ex-boyfriend’s number permanently from my phone, but I might not feel that way in a few months. Maybe we need electronics to give us that second chance or that poignant nostalgia we didn’t think we would need when we tore up those old pictures.

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg junior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].