America Has A Massive Digital Hoarding Problem

America is a nation of “digital hoarders” with two in every five respondents in a recent survey failing to rid themselves of a host of digital stuff, according to new research.

From libraries of purchased movies and music to saving decade-old photos, a new survey of 2,000 Americans by Western Digital suggests that many Americans are trapped in a “digital chaos.”

Results showed 40 percent of those polled said they hoard things they don’t need or rarely access on their phones — with useless apps and unneeded photos the most common things clogging devices.

Fifty-six percent say they have run their device completely to storage capacity and received a warning message. A further 62 percent have had to delete old files in order to be able to take new photos.

In fact, the link between hoarding and stress is arguably strong: Three in four of those with full devices admit that getting a warning that their electronic device is running out of space is a source of anxiety for them.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed even admit to feeling anxious at the thought of losing or being away from their phone for too long.

Our attachment to our phones is strong, yet the phone users estimate, on average, that over a quarter of their phone storage (27 percent) is taken up by completely unnecessary or unused things.

“While our devices do become clogged with some unused apps and files, much of our digital chaos anxiety comes from just the very thought of trying to organize and manage all of the valued photos, videos and music that we not only want to access, but also make sure we never lose,” said Jim Welsh, a senior vice president at Western Digital. “And with this digital content spread across multiple devices, it’s no small challenge to find and enjoy all the collections and memories we’ve captured.”

Although we hoard, sometimes it comes from neglect. Thirteen percent of survey respondents haven’t searched through their devices and thoroughly sorted their phone’s content in a few months, and 7 percent haven’t sorted through them in a year or more.

When asked how often they sort through junk mail and unread messages, three-fifths sort through it daily, but 45 percent still confessed to having email accounts full of junk mail, spam mail, or unread messages — with an average of 201 unread or junk messages per person.

And as many as 62 percent have had to free up space ahead of taking new photos.

That leads to sacrifices having to be made, with 54 percent admitting they’ve had to delete files they would rather keep if they had the space.

But do we really want to keep every last photo or video on our phones? Almost a quarter of respondents admit to having old photos or files they store on electronic devices but only look at once every six months or more.

And 35 percent of respondents would access old files and photos more if they had easy access.

The study also found that almost one in seven respondents now has the majority of their sentimental photos stored online, but respondents still keep a treasure of old photos on their phones. The oldest photo in respondents’ phones averaged over three years old.

Almost 45 percent said they don’t feel they have a proper backup plan in place for their most treasured digital keepsakes, and 31 percent admit to not backing up their files at all.

In fact, 52 percent say they would be willing to spend an average of $203 on a more expensive device simply because it has more storage.

When it comes to things that matter, it seems photos take one of the top spots, with respondents saying they’d be unhappier losing their photos, whether stored on an electronic device or in a physical photo album, than they would be splitting up with their current partner or losing touch with a best friend.

“The survey results align to feedback we receive from people all the time,” Western Digital’s Welsh added. “Consumers want to continue using their devices to capture the world around them. That’s not going to change. We strive to create simple, consumer-friendly solutions to help people easily manage and store their most important content without interruption or having to change their lifestyle.”

This post was originally published in New York POST.

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