Does this dick pic spark joy for you? You may not ask that exact question to yourself, but those scrolls of texts from an ex-love, the hundreds of selfies you’re not planning to use, or the idle apps and files filling up your phone and computer can be overwhelming to clear out—leading to letting our digital clutter to take over our digital space. This digital clutter not only affects our screens but also affects our mental space, so why not curate only the best digital items that will spark joy by employing the cult-cleaning power of the KonMari Method?
It’s safe to say that everyone has seen or at least heard of the KonMari method. Created by Japan’s tiny tidy queen, Marie Kondo, it’s a philosophy and lifestyle that ignited a bestselling book, hit Netflix series, and a cult following of immaculately folded wardrobes. If you’re not familiar, it’s an organising and decluttering system based on how an item makes you feel, instead of focusing on practicality (popularly known as spark joy). And just like cleaning your flat can positively affect your mental health, so does cleaning your digital space.
Do we need to care if we’re cluttering our devices? It’s easy to think of our devices and even our cloud storage as boundless. So what’s the harm right? On an environmental level, files that are uploaded into our computer and uploaded to the internet use up storage space. As data is sustained through data server centres, it uses high amounts of electricity, emitting volumes of heat, using large amounts of land and billions of dollars to shelter. On a psychological level, warehousing thousands of files on our devices can bring mental strain. Ironically, Kondo suggests putting photos on a hard drive or cloud storage system, which might be more practical, but does not solve the mental and digital clutter.
The oceans of memes, photos, apps, and texts to sift through may be overwhelming, so it’s easier to let it live in our devices. The volume of what we accumulate may intimidate us but there’s also a psychological reason behind our apprehension. According to Russell Belk’s 2013 study, we’re more reluctant to delete items if we invest time and energy. Whether it be time investing in text messages with our lover, hours taking the perfect selfie, and even time downloading an app and going through the signing up process. These digital possessions create a collection of ourselves and use it as a reminder of an experience.
That’s not to say these memories are accurate—who’s really truthful digitally anyway? But as enhancing emotion and nostalgia of the experience. These memories are artefacts that represent old relationships, old memories, an old you. We keep them to reflect on our mistakes, our achievements, and our growth as human beings. According to Kondo who spoke with CNN, “The biggest mistake with digital tidying is focusing too much on what to discard.” Like everything else in the KonMari method, you should only keep things that are valuable to you, makes sense in your lifestyle, and “spark joy”.
On the flip side, too many digital memories can disable you to remember that experience. Based on reports from Business Insider, people took 1.2 trillion photos in 2017 alone. Those numbers have risen exponentially since then. According to Linda Henkel, a professor of psychology at Fairfield University in Connecticut, when you use your camera to save the experience instead of your brain, it stops you from creating an emotional attachment to the memory. This phenomenon aptly named the ‘Photo Taking Impairment’ affects not only your mental space but your digital space as well—like junk in your closet.
This unemotional disconnect to our digital memories also stems into how we interact with our apps. According to Statista, the number of app downloads in 2017 reached 178 billion, with this figure predicted to rise to 258 billion by 2022. According to a 2018 report by Business of Apps, users spend 80 percent of their time with their top ten favourite apps—an average of 10 apps a day, or 30 per month. As our attention spans are lowered we are more likely to delete apps more frequently—29.1 percent of Android phone users and 25 percent of iPhone users let apps sit in their phones for at least a day before they are unceremoniously deleted.
Some may argue that due to our nonchalance towards our digital possessions and how easily they can be duplicated, they hold less of an emotional attachment. On the contrary, these digital possessions could hold even more credence. But in many regards, existing in the digital sphere already makes them more precious—photos, texts, and apps can be accidentally deleted, your device could be stolen, or the dreaded phone in the toilet. Today so many of our memories rely on the existence of online platforms, of hardware and software, and it is when these technologies crash that we are reminded of their ephemerality.
The attachment to our digital possessions and the fear of losing them garners us to obsessively back up files, thus creating even more digital clutter. We need to pivot our thinking and see our digital space as a personal space. If we’re more mindful—the KonMari way—it would ease our mental strain and bring more meaning to what we allow to live in our screens. So I’ll ask again—does that dick pic spark joy for you?
Often when I walk around new cities that I’m visiting, in the moments where I find myself dodging selfie sticks strapped to huge glowing phones or hear my own phone ding with an email, I just sigh and wonder what travel would feel like in a world before we were so attached to technology. While there is a part of me that longs to see the streets of old cities in the height of their glamour, free of gadgets, I honestly cannot imagine travelling today without technology. Over my years of travelling, I think that it’s made the foreign feel more familiar. From using Airbnb to book people’s homes instead of hotels, online reviews to find the best food spots and Uber amazing me by working in almost every destination, technology can keep us connected with what feels familiar.
Most of my travels over the last few years have been trips I have taken alone. When you’re by yourself in a strange place, travelling alone can often be daunting. But now, thanks to smartphones you can hear a voice from your phone that tells you where to walk and what you can expect at the end of each road. As I’m about to embark on six weeks of travel, I’m thinking about how technology will impact every aspect of my time away. Will I be able to switch off from my work emails? Will I bore people on my Instagram of multiple beaches and blue skies? Will I actually experience the trip how I would have in a time before technology? I just don’t know.
I was in Venice recently, sitting in the garden of Peggy Guggenheim totally alone under a blue sky when the huge ancient bells from the church next door started ringing. It was achingly beautiful and I wanted to witness it with someone. So I picked up my phone and video called my family ten thousand miles away in Australia and we watched the birds depart the trees with each bell strike. It made the moment even better but I wonder what could have happened if I didn’t have the technology to share that moment with anyone but myself. Does technology take the chance of what could have been by always giving us an easy option to connect to something or someone? Are we less inclined to speak and socialise to people on the streets of where we’re travelling because we’re relaying our holidays to our social media minute by minute?
Statistics say that social media is now the reason we choose where we travel with ‘Instagrambility’ the number one factor in millennials choosing where to go on holidays. New innovations in technology are adapting to this. Being a tourist and travelling has completely changed in the last twenty years. With the ‘experience economy’ at the forefront of these changes, apps like Trippin coined by Refinery29 as ‘The Travel App for People Who Don’t Want to Be Tourists’ and Airbnb’s new ‘Experience’ are tapping directly into selling a personalised, customised and sometimes even algorithms driven package to us. Technology is now claiming to know better where you should travel than you do; by extending the experiences that they offer, these apps can make travel technology something that connects rather than alienates.
A truly unique travel experience is the only thing that is difficult to put a price on, so brands will always seek out ways to deliver it authentically. Companies like TravelLocal use the ability to connect communities online when people prepare for their trips, and apps like Instagram enable us to search on the ground when we’re there using the ‘geotag’ tool. Even Tinder lets you set cities so that by the time you’ve landed you can have a date for the night you arrive in some strange city. What all of these platforms are all attempting to achieve is ultimately the same goal: connecting us to people as much as to the places we’re going to.
More than often the reasons we travel are different, we can take the same trip twice and each time come away with differing experiences due to our initial motivations. But either way, if we’re travelling to get lost or going out of our comfort zone to try and find something, technology can now help us do both. It can help you skip the queue at a world famous monument by buying an e-ticket, but more than anything, it can also connect you to that person 10,000 miles away that you want to share the moment with. The unnamable thing that travel gives you can never really be locked down because it’s a feeling framed by experience. Tech companies whose products accompany us through our travels are selling something infinitely more calculated than connection: they are providing us with a personalised experience.