Digital Social Hoarding: Do Influencers need psychotherapy?

Posted on May 17th 2012

Digital Social Hoarding: Do Influencers need psychotherapy?

ImageCompulsive hoarding is defined by Wikipedia as “a pattern of behaviour that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that would seemingly qualify as useless or without value.”

Typically, hoarders would pile up (and never throw away) useless amounts of books, furniture, newspapers, clothes, freebies or trash… 

Additionally to making you stage your own domestic tsunami, compulsive hoarding is considered to be an obsessive-compulsive disorder, often triggering attention-deficit, extreme anxiety and anomy. In other words, it’s pretty bad. But since you seem to be able to walk around your own house, you’re not a hoarder right?

In the past few years, people have started mentioning Digital Hoarding, a psychological pattern where people would collect digital objects (i.e. files) instead of physical objects.  Following the same process as “normal” compulsive hoarding, digital hoarders would accumulate (and refuse to delete) emails, photos, bookmarks, films, mp3, despite the conscious knowledge that there is almost “no chance (they) will read/visit/look at/listen to these again”. Like Kit Anderson, past president of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, says “Digital clutter doesn't beget mice or interfere with walking around the house, but it's more insidious because no one else is going to insist that you get help." Are you starting to have doubts yet?

Social Networks and the Web 2.0 in general have brought hoarding to a whole new dimension: Digital Social Hoarding.  In the case of Social Hoarding, people are collecting social objects, which can be broadly defined as online social interactions. More precisely, social hoarders are collecting push connections; any kind of online social attention to content they are posting, as opposed to pull connections who are the connections they get their content from.  In other words, social hoarding consists in an endless race against oneself to collect a maximum number of ephemeral or long-lasting connections, stemming from a narcissistic crave for social attention. Do you collect Facebook Friends, even though you don’t know them (anymore)? Are you constantly looking at the number of Twitter followers you have and actively chasing new ones? Are you obsessed by the numbers of comments and likes on your updates, the subscribers on your Spotify playlists, the number of repins you get from Pinterest, your followers on Tumblr or Instagram? Can a better Klout score make your day?

In addition to the psychological disorders hoarding represents, it could be interesting to get the advice of an expert on whether, in the case of digital social hoarding, self-esteem has become dangerously dependent from these figures. Being social animals by nature, we are all inclined to become more or less infected by social hoarding tendencies (the opposite case would be equally worrying). Everyone wants to become an influencer but the social media landscape sometimes resembles the Kingdom of Curators, fighting a pointless ego war. 

Finally, gathering endless amounts of digital social relations is very time consuming and, in the long term, might damage our ability to rely on a limited number of real-life connections. Accordingly, the emphasis put recently on the importance of influence, especially in the case of recruitment, seems at least inefficient if not counter-productive. It’s overweighting a very limited, if not pathological, set of social skills whilst ignoring both real-life social skills and self-achievement through personal projects. The paradox lies here: In extreme cases, social media influencers can in fact be anomic, obsessive narcissists.

So, how far are you down the line of social hoarding?

Chris Mallet

Christophe Mallet

Manager, Carve Consulting

Coming from a business school background but/and deeply passionate about music, fascinated by the perpetually resurrecting creative industries and an early believer in the power of Social Media, I joined Carve Consulting after previous experiences in both the Music Industry and the Consulting area. Now a beginner DJ on week-ends, I love spending my weeks at Carve blending ideas, matching tactics and tools to create the catchiest strategies to bring innovations, individuals and companies together on the Social Web. On top of dealing with clients, I sometimes switch the cross-fader to Internal Strategic and Business Development. Addicted to Hootsuite (among many other geeky bonbons) and rather optimistic about future Web developments, I'm confident that the web 3.0 will actually arise when people will be able to directly download pepperoni pizzas and ice-cold beers.

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Deborah Latham-White
Posted on May 17th 2012 at 11:47PM

I clean my files out every time a new season begins. After the first time I did a massive purge of my files, I knew right then and there that I needed to devise a system and stick to it.  I am acutally related to someone who is a real hoarder and that reality keeps me on point.