Column: Digital space deserves to be clean and organized too

Digital clutter is just as bad as physical clutter, but cleaning it up may help just the same.

Abigail Ruhman is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life, politics and social issues for The Maneater.

I never thought I would say this, but memes taught me something really important. That’s right — memes taught me a life lesson. After searching for one specific picture that would have the group chat crying for laughter, I realized that I might have too many pictures on my phone.

Similar to physical clutter, you only start to see online and digital clutter once you need something quickly. Whether it’s the search engine on your email account failing or diving into a messy desktop, our growing dependence on technology is creating more and more digital clutter.

The main difference between digital and physical clutter is the lack of incentive to clean it up. Sometimes it’s ripping your room apart to find what you’re looking for that makes you realize that your space is too cluttered. When it comes to your digital space, you can close the tab or put the device away.

Unlike having to clean up your bedroom, turning off the device allows you to ignore the problem. By not acknowledging the issue, the clutter continues to grow without any visible consequences. It can feel easier to clean it up later, but time just adds more to the clutter.

Emails pile up, desktops lose space and the problem gets worse. As much as technology has allowed people to move forward, it isn’t always perfect. It’s a tool and learning to keep that tool functioning and running is important. The amount of digital stuff that people allow to pile up actually leads to a shorter battery life, according to Telecom.

The good thing is that digital clutter can be easy to clean up. With the addition of search functions and right-clicking to organize, the main thing someone needs is time. Just like physical clutter, taking a few minutes everyday to clean up can make a difference.

By allowing yourself to let go of unneeded documents and apps that aren’t useful, not only do you help improve your technology, but also your health. Digital, mental and physical clutter have the same impact on your mental health, according to Medium.

The clutter provides you with the opportunity to ignore the more important things you have to do, essentially forcing you to work harder. This wears out your brain, and takes a lot of energy just to focus on the task at hand. By the time you get to the thing you’re supposed to be doing, you may not have enough energy.

While it may seem better to use willpower to just ignore your surroundings, using that willpower to gut and clean can be better in the long run. It may take time and energy, but it’s better than using that time and energy to consistently ignore the problem. When it comes to time-sensitive issues, having your technology organized can make it easier to find what you need within a few moments.

Starting the digital gutting process can seem daunting, but breaking it down into small tasks everyday can make it seem more achievable. Dedicate one day to cleaning out your google drive or desktop, and the next day can be for clearing out the thousands of memes you have saved. If you have something saved to add to notes or a screenshot of a song you need to add to a playlist, do that while cleaning it out.

Keeping your desktop or homescreen organized can make using your technology easier and more efficient. In addition, taking a few minutes every night to process all the new emails, pictures and information you received that day can keep everything manageable. Find a system that works with you, and then make it a habit.

Trust me, I love all of my memes, but when I’m looking for a picture I actually really need, they get in the way. With the amount of important information I store on my computer and phone, organizing it makes life a little easier. I can find an email in two minutes, and I no longer have a ton of untitled documents in my Google Drive. Maybe I’m 5,649 deleted memes away from getting my life together. Maybe you are too.

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