How To Digitally Declutter
Remember how we were all obsessed with Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? At one point, everyone was decluttering and clearing up their closets! Other than getting rid of old stuff, minimalism is a lifestyle that promotes a clutter-free environment to enable better focus, more financial savings and contentment.
As digital transformation continues to revolutionize the way we work and connect, most of our lives have begun to revolve around our digital presence and online engagements. However, we have yet to explore what it means to keep our online spaces clean, and how to declutter digitally. We don’t realize it, but all this online clutter has a lot of adverse effects, such as social media fatigue.
What is social media fatigue? According to Technopedia, “Social media fatigue refers to social media users’ tendency to pull back from social media when they become overwhelmed with too many social media sites, too many friends and followers and too much time spent online maintaining these connections. Boredom and concerns about online privacy are also linked to social media fatigue.” If you’re feeling lethargic and experiencing online or social media fatigue, here are some things you can do.
1. Unsubscribe to emails you do not bother opening.
I subscribe to a lot of interesting mailing lists, hoping that the direct access to information would spark curiosity and expand my knowledge. However, the reality is that I am too tired to be able to absorb all this information. In fact, having unopened emails irks me, and seeing over 30 advertisements in my inbox every week stresses me out.
At first, I tried my best to categorize the different emails I receive. For example, I would try to categorize them between useless marketing materials, invitations, or informative newsletters. This effort lasted for two days, as I ended up spending more time sorting the emails rather than reading them.
I realize that there is no point beating myself up for having too little brain capacity to learn, so I started unsubscribing to mailing lists (even though they were very interesting!). Not only did it clear my mental state, but it’s comforting to know that I am significantly reducing my carbon footprint (each email is responsible for up to 4g of CO2 emissions).
2. Unfollow accounts you don’t like on social media.
There are groups of people who choose to eliminate social media totally. However, I personally enjoy them – to a certain extent. We all have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of friends that we follow on social media, but do we actually get to see everything they post? Highly unlikely. As such, I started to compartmentalize the platforms I use and why I use them. For example, I have old acquaintances from high school and university on Facebook; whereas I keep it professional on LinkedIn and is more personal on Instagram. If there are people I am friends with on Facebook but don’t feel the need to be personal with, I unfollow (or mute) them on Instagram.
When someone unfollows you, don’t take it personally. Similarly, you don’t have to feel guilty for unfollowing certain people. You just have different preferences, and that’s okay. Personally, the constant social comparisons have left me feeling insecure or jealous sometimes, and I feel like I am a much better person when I no longer have some people in my vicinity.
3. Clear your bookmark bar.
I am guilty of bookmarking things I never revisited ever again. The solution is pretty simple, just spend a couple of hours scanning through all of them and keep only things you REALLY need. A good rule of thumb (which can be used to get rid of clothes too): if you didn’t need it during the past year, you really won’t need it again – possibly ever.
Develop a bookmark system and categorization that actually works for you. Instead of just bookmarking everything, I created an index summary for myself for easy referencing.
Instead of frantically looking through my long list of bookmarks and trying to remember the exact words for that ONE sentence I’m looking for, I find having proper summaries really help. In fact, when I am intentional about summarizing the content I come across, I retain it in my memory better too.
4. Throwing away/donating old devices.
We all have an old phone, an old laptop or an old tablet we no longer use (or can use). There is no point to keep them around if we no longer use them, especially when we’re just keeping them around as a “backup” or “just in case” we need it. Let’s be real, we never actually need it. We might also keep them around because we feel guilty (for whatever reason) or sentimental.
However, its value might depreciate if you keep it around longer; instead, if they’re still in good condition, NGOs might be able to collect and refurbish them for underprivileged families, so just give them away! There are also plenty of companies or brands that have trade-in programs.
5. Deleting old chats and photos.
For many years, I was surviving with a 32GB phone. This meant that I constantly had to delete old chats and photos. I also once met with an unfortunate accident where my laptop and phone had to be reformatted simultaneously. I lost A LOT of files. (Not going to lie, I almost cried because I lost a big chunk of my dissertation research).
We might feel sentimental about these things, but it’s honestly not like we ever re-read messages or re-look at photos that often. Especially if you have tonnes of screenshots of random things, just delete them. It helps your virtual space feel cleaner and less cluttered. Plus, it also gives you more space so you don’t end up buying a new phone just because you ran out of space.
As a species, we have grown very attached to our devices. In most cases, these devices have definitely improved the quality of our life. However, there are little things we can do to keep our digital spaces clean (which also keeps our mental spaces clean and contented!). Furthermore, it is important to do our part to ensure the sustainability or longevity of these digital equipment. This is especially important because it has direct and indirect effects on our environment. So let us do our parts – big or small, to be digitally responsible too.
If you want to read more tips on how to declutter your mental space, check out this article on practical tips to declutter your mind.