Column Ilja: Digital spring cleaning

‘Spring is not yet here, so what? The clutter is bothering me.’

No matter how much we may want it to be different, no one is really capable of multitasking. Even if you have two thousand hobbies and ideas, like me, there is a moment you must yield: focusing on a single task for a while and ignoring the rest of the world. ‘I was in hibernation’, a friend called it. She responded to my app message after three months. Refreshing, really.

I was added to the umpteenth WhatsApp group last week, unsolicited. Time to count the number of semi-active groups of which I am now a member. They total twenty-five. While scrolling down the list, I became increasingly glum. Once past the first ten people whom I message regularly, all of the forgotten or neglected chats popped up, including a veritable graveyard of chats I had left and which made me feel guilty.

Visual clutter also bothers me, even if I am usually the one creating the clutter

Visual clutter also bothers me, even if I am usually the one creating the clutter. It was high time for digital spring cleaning. The fact that spring is not yet here, who cares. Climate change: spring comes early this year. The trick is to exit an app group elegantly, as there is not really a way to leave unseen. You need to find the right moment (which is not immediately after someone has shared an important announcement) and decide whether a goodbye note is in order. ‘Guys, in 2018, forming a knotsball team seemed like a great idea, but as time progresses, it seems increasingly unlikely actually to happen. Moreover, one of us is now in New Zeeland, so I am leaving this group’, or something of that nature.

The trick is to exit an app-group elegantly

Furthermore, there is the issue of knowing when to respond to a message immediately and when you can take your time. That reduces the sense of guilt. There are some people with whom I message in a manner reminiscent of two women sending each other letters in times of war. The friend who has just ended her hibernation, for example. Coincidentally, I am about to go into hibernation myself because I need to finalise my bachelor’s. Hence, my friend will have to wait for my reply for a month. In the meantime, the messages will keep piling up, which means a second digital spring cleaning is in order when I come out of hibernation. But I will not feel guilty.schoonmaak moeten houden zodra ik uit mijn kluizenaarsfase kom. Maar ik zal me niet schuldig voelen.

Ilja Bouwknegt is 24, a bachelor’s student of Forest and Nature Management, and an active member of the study association WSBV Sylvatica. She sometimes does bat research at night.

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