Vail Daily columnist Linda Stamper Boyne: Linda’s virtual secret
February 5, 2013
There are some out there who say that I share more than I should in this space. It has been suggested that I reveal too much, bare too many details. I have been told, in texting terms, TMI (Too Much Information).
So if you are one of that ilk, be warned. I will be over-sharing an ugly truth in just a few seconds.
I am admitting this publicly in the hope that someone can help me. Or at least make me feel like I’m not alone in this. I know there are others out there.
This truth? This unattractive part of me I am bringing to light? I’m a hoarder.
There. I’ve said it. Don’t judge.
Wait, not that kind of hoarder. My physical space is actually rather neat and orderly. You can, at any given time, walk freely through my home without fear of stacks of collected things falling on you or having to step over piles of stuff, unless the boys are with me. Then the whole place takes on a different hue.
My collected junk is more of the cyber variety. I am an email hoarder. My inbox has messages number into the thousands. My iCloud must look like a version of Sanford and Son.
The delete button is just so permanent and scary, like I’m erasing a part of me, a segment of my history. In this fast-paced, high-tech world, it just seems too easy to get rid of things.
The little trash can icon sits there, all threatening and intimidating, daring me to drag something over there, waiting to devour it, ready to sound that frightening “boink” signaling a piece of me being sent into oblivion. Shudder!
In the olden days, when we got actual mail, we had to physically remove from our homes anything we threw away. There was a ritualistic element to it, a procedure that made it complete and final. I knew that the junk mail I put in the trash would get carried out in a bag to the garbage, which went to the dump and disappeared into the disaster that is our country’s landfills.
But the emails, where do they go?
I should feel happy that the majority of my junk mail is now virtual and not adding to the problem. And intellectually I know that I will never need 99 percent of what is sitting in my inbox. I will never look at again, never have occasion to access it. Some emails are even unopened. But the thought of not having what I need when I need it is just too much to bear. And honestly, at this point, the task of cleaning it out has become overwhelming.
My In Box is quite literally an archive of the last several years of my life. I can look through and remember. The items ordered when I was redecorating the boys’ rooms. Confirmations for places I’ve visited. The emails from school retrace the year’s events gone by. The emails from my mom and dad, my sister, my friends.
And this is what really makes me pause. For centuries, letters have helped us fill in the pieces of history, both in the greater sense and in our lives personally. Paper and pen letters have a physical presence, waiting to be picked up and read.
I still have letters and postcards from my grandparents and parents and a stack of letters from my Great Aunt Hazel, who was like my pen pal in my early adult years. I recognize their handwriting and seeing it triggers other memories about them and about my life at the time I received the letters. I cherish these items. They connect me to my past.
Electronic mail is ephemeral, gone in an instant, never actually tangible, locked in a password-protected account, dependent upon potentially archaic technology to access. Am I going to curl up with my laptop in 15 years and reread an email from my niece? Will it even be there for me to access? Are we losing an entire segment of our history because of electronic communication?
By saving my emails, I am trying in some way to hold onto that part of me, to cement into my memory my life at that time, to leave a trail of crumbs for someone to discover who I was and what was important to me. Even if it is just that I had early access to Nordstrom’s semiannual sale.
Linda Stamper Boyne of Edwards can be contacted through email@example.com