The Collectors

The new internet is a collectors’ best friend. When we first got a chance to join the internet, it was all about browsing and finding interesting things. At its inception, it was a web of random pages, a place of forums and discussion boards. As it further developed, we began to migrate to a more social experience where we are more interested in people, and what they have to say. The main topic on a discussion board was like the fire we sit around when going out to camp in the forest. We shared stories and talked about it. Now, although social media also facilitates this conversation, for the most part, we are transforming “the topic” into “a person”. We are interested in what they find interesting. Where once we used to meet new people over the things we like, now we stick with the people we know and we want to know what goes around the world through their lenses.

We’ve taken another step further. Where we used to express ourselves using words, now we can do it using videos, pictures and music. Somewhere along the way, something changed. Storage became ridiculously cheap and at first we created more things. Then, less original content and more ‘reposted’ content. Although this seems like a small thing, it encouraged another type of behavior which we all started to adopt. Now we can generate more content than before, and the web can host it for us, either for free or for an inexpensive fee. We’ve become collectors of digital artefacts. We collect photos, stories, movies, music, playlists, reading-lists, likes, followers, reblogs, bookmarks. Everything that can be collected, we collect.

Although it seems like this is a new trend, people have been collecting things long before the internet came along. What the internet did is enabled anybody to collect just about any type of digital content. In the glory days of philately, there were only a few who had the patience, dedication and resources to curate a great stamp collection. Now, I can just make a Pinterest acount and collect everything that catches my attention. Flipboard made it easy to collect stories and bundle them into magazines. Evernote allows me to collect and index everything into as many notebooks as I see fit. It’s the case that a lot of the things we end up collecting will never serve a purpose, they will be forgotten and we will be collecting for the sake of collection and at no point in time will we revisit these collections.

They give us the false impression that we become richer in a sense. It might be the case for books or articles, but if we just “mark as wanting to read” and “pocket for later” but we don’t actually make the time to do these things, then all of it is for nothing. As with all things social, and all things internet, we follow the hurdle. Whenever a new “collection” type service appears, we make an account. Not because we need it, but because our friends have one. And if they have one, why shouldn’t I? I mean, what? Do they know something I don’t know?

This collecting behaviour goes hand in hand with the collective behavior. We’re not here for long, and by God we’ll collect every single item that we can. If we can have it all, then we must have it all.

I’m a collector. This is what I assemble:

  • articles on Pocket
  • images on Evernote
  • playlists on Spotify and 8tracks
  • maps on Google
  • thoughts on Medium
  • bookmarks on Delicious
  • tv series on SeriesGuide
  • books on Goodreads
  • movies on Mubi
  • steps on Noom Walk
  • running stats on Strava

What are you collecting?