The web is awash with self-declared "digital packrats" who swap horror stories about hard drives bursting with unneeded MP3s and JPEGs. Like font collectors in the late '90s, these digital junkaholics swap suspiciously boastful confessionals: "You think that's bad? You should see my porn collection." And so on.
Not us, natch. Porn? No mum, not us.
Infohoarders are doing more than just amassing files. Like their physical counterparts whose lives eventually become unbearably cluttered -- such as New York's Collyer brothers, who died under piles of collected rubbish in 1947 -- they're sliding down a dangerously slippery slope. Reinardy admitted that most of her hoarders "are very high-functioning people (who) just got caught in this behavior."
Highly functional? Ooh! That's us.
"It starts with good intentions. 'I'm going to get all of these movies while I can.' But then what happens? It becomes such a huge selection that if you want a particular movie, you have to look through thousands and thousands of others to find it," Reinardy said.
In practical terms, the collection becomes useless.
But there are warning signs. According to Reinardy, infohoarders avoid making decisions because they need to get all the right information before acting. "They oftentimes aren't getting things done at work," she said. "Or it takes them a tremendously long time to get things done because it takes so much time to collect all of the information."
But there is hope:
Dr. Michael Jenike, a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has also seen cases of infohoarding, but curiously, one of them was cured by Google.
"Last year we had a retired nurse who did this with all kinds of data," he said. But "once the person realized that she could get any information she wanted by a simple search, her need to hoard diminished dramatically."