Clutter is everywhere. It’s in our closets. It’s in our kitchen cupboards. It’s in our bathroom cabinets. It’s in our desk drawers. It’s in our glove boxes, garden sheds, attics, and handbags. Clutter has taken over our physical space. And it has taken over our digital space, too.
We keep digital clutter on our phones, on our computers, and even in our social networks. And there’s only one way around it: Delete it.
Delete. Delete. Delete.
My own deletion practices began in January after I (temporarily) deactivated my Facebook account. I realised that the reason Facebook was causing me stress was because of my ever-growing list of “friends”.
But I didn’t start there. Instead, I went through my contact lists and removed countless entries. Phone numbers, emails, addresses: If I did not need them, they were gone.
I went through my emails and deleted messages that are of no future use to me*. I even deleted draft emails for messages I know I will never (should never!) send.
I went through my Twitter account and deleted old Tweets that were a bit too snarky. And I went through the list of people I follow to make sure that I actively want to hear what they have to say. If I didn’t; they were gone.
All of that stuff was (mostly) easy to delete. It was, after all, just mindless clutter that I knew I didn’t need in my life. And, to be honest, doing so probably didn’t make that big of a difference in my well-being.
But when it came to Facebook, I struggled. In fact, I still struggle!
You see, Facebook had become this weird place of obligation. I accepted friend requests from people I went to school with and many other people from my rural home town because I knew that it was expected on some level. And I knew (through experience) that if I wasn’t friends with someone, there might be questions.
So, my friend list grew. And along with it, my stress grew.
As it happened, some of those “friends” were very vocal about how I should live my life. It began early on in widowhood when “helpful” people told me how I should be grieving. And later some helpful people let me know that it was wrong for me to wanting to date again. (And others let me know that it was wrong that I haven’t yet found someone new. I can’t win for trying!)
But I couldn’t bring myself to delete them because I felt an obligation to turn the other cheek. I mean, having known some of these people for as long as I can remember, certainly they were my friends and didn’t mean to cause me pain.
So I suffered in silence among the towering digital clutter, allowing it to slowly suffocate my spirit.
I am slightly embarrassed to admit that the stress and upset from all of the meanness caused me to suffer in my offline world. I began to isolate myself from everyone, certain that even those who hadn’t said upsetting things were thinking them.
When I finally returned to Facebook after a three-month hiatus, my first point of action was to unfriend all of the people whose messages and comments made me cry. Anyone who had actively gone out of their way to share negative views with me were gone. Anyone who told me I was being disrespectful to my late husband by dating again was gone. Anyone who told me I need to forget my late husband and find a new one – because a woman always needs a man! – was gone.
And lots of other people were gone, too. I began deleting anyone who I had hidden from my news feed. And I began deleting anyone I hid my status updates from.
And it felt good. I finally felt like deleting digital clutter was having a positive impact on my emotional state.
It’s important (to me) to point out that I didn’t delete people whose updates make me roll my eyes. I didn’t delete people just because they post things that I don’t agree with or because they were those kinds of friends. After all, they have a right to curate their Facebook world as they see fit; it takes all kinds to make the world go around!
No, I only deleted people who made me feel bad about myself or people who were actively mean to myself or others.
I have a little bit more work to do, I admit. But I’m working on it. I am working to rid my world of the digital clutter that only serves to make me unhappy.
It’s hard work and it takes a bit of courage, but it has to be done. And I feel mostly good about it. I feel as if I’m taking control over who I allow to participate in my world. And in time, I hope it helps me to re-prioritise my life; to re-prioritise me.
I admit that there are a couple of pieces of digital clutter I can’t seem to rid myself of. Much like broken mugs in the back of the cupboard, I am hopeful that I can repair them one day. But we always have to have a little bit of hope stored somewhere.
But for now, it’s back to deleting digital clutter. This time, in the form of RSS feeds that I never read.
* Frustratingly, I still have to keep the digital clutter Stalker Sam sends. I hope I never have to use it, but if things get really bad again, I need to have the evidence.