I am an Information Hoarder, and I am Powerless Over my Addiction

I have a disease. A cybernetic disease.

It’s called ‘information hoarding.’ There is no known cure…

Well, in so far as I don’t know what it is, anyway. I am the center of my own universe, so if I don’t know it, it is not known.

As a byproduct of my job, my inquisitive nature, and my lazy OCD (it’s a lot like normal OCD, just with a much lower threshold for difficulty — “wash my hands six times? That sounds hard. I think I’ll just make sure all my pens are pointing the same direction, thanks.”) I keep building up massive libraries of links that I have no idea what to do with. If somebody shows me something interesting, my first response isn’t “wow! Amazing!” it’s “you should send that to me.” I’m convinced I have a use for half of the things I see on the internet — and brother, if you’ve seen the internet, you realize how hilariously wrong that entire concept is. Being a columnist at Cracked means I have more of a potential use for information than some (I do have a very beefy column doc where I collect information that relates to a few dozen different premises I’m kicking around at any given point) but it doesn’t justify the kind of hoarding I do. If insane gifs and fringe scientific breakthroughs were empty pizza boxes and mason jars, I would be buried under a glass and cardboard avalanche of my own making. I use Dropbox, Instapaper, and Reddit saved links daily — that’s right: I utilize three different platforms just to hoard obscure facts about space and pop culture. And the worst part is that the hoarding instinct started getting in the way of utility. I don’t actually intake or share any of this information. Partly because I collect too much of it: I can’t possibly read everything I save in a given week. That’s madness! But I can’t lose it! What if I need it someday?!

And those are the exact words of the crazy cat lady trying to justify her collection of sweater catalogues to an impatient psychiatrist.

The other pitfall is that I end up not reading this stuff specifically because I have a means of saving it for later. Instapaper has become shorthand for “I will never, ever read this, but nice try!” Reddit’s saved links have become shorthand for “I don’t really watch videos on my phone, but if I did, I would probably watch this!” Dropbox has become shorthand for “remember to feel guilty later that you don’t have the patience to read through an entire academic paper.” I browse and save more information than ever before, and I feel like I’m taking in less of it every day.

But today, I’m doing something about it. I am done with Reddit. No more Instapaper. I need Dropbox for work, but that’s the extent of its function. If I want to read about science, I’m going to have to manually check my science bookmarks and actually scan through (or at least glance at the headlines and pretend to understand very basic summaries of) the articles there. I am no longer going to fool myself into thinking that a gif of a Chinese man crashing a scooter into a ditch will somehow further my career. I am probably still going to be a lazy and ignorant piece of shit, but god damn it – I’m at least going to be lazy and ignorant myself, instead of relegating my lazy ignorance to technology.

Who’s with me?!

N…nobody? This is the ultimate first world problem, and I should alternate between shutting up and feeling bad about my priorities? Oh, all right then. I’ll get started promptly.

18 thoughts on “I am an Information Hoarder, and I am Powerless Over my Addiction

  1. Gray

    My god this sounds eerily familiar, like sober me wrote this for drunk me to read and take note of. Drunk me just bookmarked this.
    RSS feeds have helped a little, now I have thousands of feeds I’ve subscribed to that I never read, but I can (and sometimes do) check them out every so often. It’s great for regular reading you want to do, like the science stuff, you can ‘star’ articles that are useful and even apply labels to them for easy sort – oh my god it’s happening again…

    Reply
  2. James

    I have this problem too. I have over 7000 bookmarks alone, at least 500 evernote pages with various links on them, notepad files with hundreds of links to shit I have no idea why I ever saved them. and don’t even get me started on saving pics I see that are “cool”.

    Reply
  3. Andrew

    The Facebook page “I Fucking Love Science” does a weekly bite-size breakdown of what’s happened in the science world that week, with links to the full articles if you want to know more. It’s what I use for getting juicy science knowledge.

    Reply
  4. Redager

    Here I was thinking I was the only one. I do this constantly and generally for work. I teach English, Creative Writing and run a small literary journal, so I constantly look for story ideas, neat little facts I think I could put into something (which no one will ever notice) and generally anything else I think I find interesting or think my students might find interesting. Then, of course, there is my own writing, which can get a bit awkward.
    When I’m doing research, I’ll often create a folder on my desktop that contains quick access to research. I keep it on my desktop because it’s easy to find there. When I finish, the folder will go into the My Documents folder, never to be seen again. I was writing a novel a few years back and there was a scene where one of the characters gets tortured. I didn’t know much about torture at the time, so I spent a week or so researching and started doing my little compiling thing on the desktop. I named the folder “Effective Torture Methods” and filled that baby with dozens of pictures, first hand accounts, diagrams, designs and methods. I remember one picture of a guy being cooked alive in a giant frying pan (courtesy of Ivan the Terrible).
    Being my oblivious self, I took my laptop with me to a family dinner with the hope that I could get some work done. My brother in law asked if he could use my computer. I said sure and about ten seconds later, he got this strange look on his face, motioned for my sister and mother to come over. Everyone avoided me for some reason for the rest of the night.
    What I’m saying is that you should hold on to all of your hoarded info, because while it makes perfect sense to you, to an outsider it may just look like the dealings of a lunatic and if they think you’re learning how to pickle heads they’ll probably leave you alone.

    Reply
    1. Robert Brockway Post author

      My internet search history is terrifying. I’m constantly investigating explosives, flammability, survivability of wounds…

      It’s all for writing, I swear!

      Reply
  5. Kyle

    Knowledge is great. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity for some serious hoarding. I worry that after I die that my computer will be scanned for all the malcontent of my mind suspected by relatives. in reality, though, I realize they will just throw the computer away and never experience the face melting blandness of hoarded data. It doesn’t mean anything out of context. Although, I guess it might make more sense to add context to hoarded data? Fuck I don’t know. Hoarding is fun.

    Reply
  6. ShutyerLips

    I’m guilty of exactly this. I did, however, stop my sick need to save files upon files of daily/weekly newsletter emails from dozens of sites. I had a sober moment in which I saw, actually saw, how many unread emails there were in each folder. It totaled over 8 thousand. I took four hours to read the ones that truly interested me, save the very few that were useful and delete the rest. I’m almost proud and only a little ashamed to say the total of new archived emails is less than two hundred. How I can possibly make use of all that information, I have absolutely no idea, but it has enriched me already and will most likely not survive the next cycle of systemic cleansing. Perhaps the real trick is to kill that cycle. But I love information! And I love spare time! I hope to one day use that spare time for actually absorbing that information. I’m just practicing for the time being. Thanks for bringing it up! I’m gonna [not] go read something! Except I’m not scheduled to review my saved google docs until the end of the decade…

    Reply
  7. ViolaFury (@ViolaFury)

    GALLNNNNN….

    I too am powerless over my addiction to hoarding. I refuse to give up my links. Even the broken ones. Being severely a OCD-Asperger-bipolar-psuedobulbaraffective-disorder type, I even go back and check them in the event that they may have miraculously healed themselves. It’s been known to happen.

    Reply
  8. Trevor Cooper

    Shit. I just saved this article to evernote. Like everything else I’ve ever seen on the internet. This disease is vicious.

    Reply
  9. Mark jones

    I know exactly how you feel, especially the recognition that it is getting in the way of my productivity. I justify the hours of searching and downloading documents because it is applicable to my career, but when I fail to follow through on my work commitments because I have been busy searching the interwebs and downloading a thousand documents in two hours then it is interfering with my life and is therefore an addiction. Plain and simple. And I am sober almost seven years now so I can honestly say I know first hand what an addiction is and I have only finally acknowledged to myself that my love of knowledge has become an addiction that I am completely powerless over. So I will hunker down and apply the same principles that have kept me sober for this long.

    One last thing, I keep thinking of the email I received at the end of the year from POCKET letting me know how many trillions of words I had read. Classic.

    Thanks

    Reply
  10. Priyanka

    And I bookmarked this as well >_<
    P.S. Its been months since I've had enough patience to scroll to the bottom of my bookmark list.

    Reply
  11. Dan

    This article took me from slightly trying to stifle my chuckle in this bank to getting to the comments and roaring with laughter in pubic. I love u guys

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *