Come on, own up – how many website bookmarks have you got on your browser? And how many of them have you actually looked at recently? Several studies show that the more you use the Internet, the more bookmarks you collect. We are fast becoming bookmark hoarders. And while the research also shows that the more bookmarks you have, the more you use, people do appear to have large lists of web page bookmark links cluttering up their browsers.
There are hundreds of programs to help organise your browser bookmarks and dozens of apps for your iPhone or for Android. The mere fact that there is such a plethora of software available shows there is a demand from people wanting to organise their bookmarks in one way or another.
I use Xmarks, which does the dual job of organising my bookmarks and syncing them between different browsers and various devices, such as my main PC, my laptop and my phone. But like many people, I have a collection of bookmarks in various folders which I almost never use. Indeed, I can’t remember what some of them were bookmarked for…!
Hoarding things is a serious problem for some individuals. It appears to afflict about one in 20 people who simply cannot throw things away and who cannot resist collecting more things either. In fact, so common is hoarding that the next update for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is rumoured to be including it as a specific diagnosis which psychiatrists can make.
So why do people hoard? Poor control over emotional attachment is one issue, so too is depression. But a common feature is fear – fear that if the item is disposed of it will be needed at a later date. And that’s the problem for users of the web. We find something and we think we might need it again in the future, so we bookmark it because we fear not being able to find it again, should we need it. And so it goes on. We may not be hoarding objects in our homes, but we are hoarding bookmarks.
The fact that bookmark storage is unlimited means it is not an issue for us. At home we may need to “de-clutter” every now and then simply to save space, but that’s not an issue online. Indeed you can use services like Evernote to store every web page you have visited, if you want. That way you will never forget anything. The problem is, finding things and remembering why you stored them in the first place.
The whole “cloud” environment in which we find ourselves means we no longer have to concern ourselves with storing only the important and relevant stuff. Instead, we can store as much as we like – indeed all of the various bookmarking programs and information capturing applications mean we are encouraged to do so.
Hoarding bookmarks and complete copies of web pages is unnecessary. Let Google, or your favourite search engine do it for you…! After all, their database is bigger and much more sophisticated.
Instead, what we really need are systems. We need to decide WHAT to store, WHY we are storing it and WHERE we will store it.
Essentially this means working out what is really important to your work and use of the web. Then set up a folder system which will achieve this in Xmarks and Evernote. If something doesn’t fit that structure, you probably don’t need to save it. And if you need it again, well Google it.
With a clean bookmarking system and data storage system you will actually find you are able to save time using the Internet in a more effective way. You will also have less visual clutter in your note-taking systems and in your bookmarks folder, providing you with greater clarity as you work, thereby helping to reduce stress. And once you’ve cut down on the stress, you’ll want to hoard less anyway.
The chances are, you don’t need anywhere near the amount of virtual stuff you are hoarding.
- Hoarding: Living with the Overwhelming Need for Stuff (socialpsychology.org)
- How to Declutter Your Home, Improve Mental Health (socialpsychology.org)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+