The Pros and Cons of Digital Collecting

I am a collector. I must have learned it from my mom. She was a collector too. She collected crystal figures, ceramic plates, coins, thimbles, stamps, dolls, and beanie babies, to name just a few things. I inherited a few of those collections when she died, but before that I had already inherited the propensity to collect myself.

I have a few physical collections, like her afore-mentioned crystal figures and thimbles, and my coin collection absorbed hers and continues to slowly grow, although I don’t do much other than maintain it right now. One of my largest collections is books, mostly paperbacks because I like to read in bed and they are easier to hold. I have three bursting bookshelves full and am always on the lookout for more. Admittedly, there are a good number of those that I haven’t read yet but there are an even greater number that I have re-read four, five, six or even more times.

The digital age has made collecting even easier than before. Now I can collect almost any media: videos, music, books, comics, and pictures and they don’t take up any more physical space than the size of my hard drive.

There are a lot of perks of digital collecting but there are a lot of negatives too.

Pros of Digital Collecting

  • Digital collecting is easy. Save a file and you have collected something.
  • Everything in your collection is only a click or two away when you want it.
  • You can experience many new things that you would never have done if you needed to purchase everything at a physical store. You can easily find media on-line and easily store it in your personal collections.
  • You can save tutorials and how-to videos to re-watch if you want to refresh yourself on the information.
  • You can stream your collections on any device you want and can even link it to your big-screen television.
  • You can carry your digital collections with you on your devices or on portable USB drives.
  • You can link you collections to your music players and digital picture frames.
  • You can save your collections in the Internet “cloud” or on various websites like Amazon or Audible.
  • You can share your collection with friends on social media or by email.
  • You can share your collections between all your devices using services like Dropbox or Google Docs.
  • You can share your collections so that other people on your network have access to it.
  • You can brag to your friends about the scope and massiveness of your collections.

Cons of Digital Collecting

  • You can over-collect. I have so much digital content stored that I will probably never get to all of it before I die.
  • And when I do die, passing down a digital collection to my children doesn’t really hold the same value as passing down a physical, tangible, collection. You can’t hold a digital collection or touch it to conjure fond images of the person who gave it to you. You also can’t set it on a table to share with other people without a device.
  • Having all that digital content readily available makes you want to read, watch or learn it, which can take up a lot of valuable time if you follow through, or serve as a mental distraction if you don’t – in the back of your mind you know it is there, ready to be consumed.
  • Also, because speedy digital cameras enable you to take multitudes of images and they are so easy to transfer to your computer collections it may take a long time to find specific images later. I find that I save most of the pictures I take even if a lot of them are just average. I have the space so there isn’t a huge need to cull them. I can always do it later if I need the space.
  • Which brings up another negative – there can be vast quantities of things in your collection that will take time to sort through and clean up if you want to. It can be an overwhelming task.
  • Another big negative is that when I die, who is going to want to sift through Terabytes of files to find what they want to keep? It’s likely that most of it will just be deleted unseen and the hard drives sold off. Obviously, I’ll do everything I can to try to avert that but I could die tomorrow and that is the situation my heirs would have.
  • Collecting digital content can be addicting just as easily as drugs, alcohol or the Internet. Once you start digitally collecting it becomes easier and easier and you just want more.


While digital collecting is easy and enables you access to your collections virtually everywhere, there are a lot of negatives that might make you re-consider it.

Will I delete most of my digital content and stop collecting it? Probably not. I enjoy movies and books and comics and music. At the end of a long day they help me relax. I just need to focus more on controlling the speed of which I digitally collect and how fast I can use it.

What are your thoughts? Are you a digital collector too? Is it more of a time waster than a time saver? Is it more of a distraction than a convenience?



The Pros and Cons of Digital Collecting — 1 Comment

  1. Collections. I have basically just 2 collections. 1) Pictures in scrap books. Six crates full, perhaps 60 or more albums of photographs with annotations of who and sometimes where and when. 2) Pictures in digital form. 3 or 4 thousand digital photographs with dates and sometimes a name of what or where.

    Why do I have these collections? So when I get old I can recollect things. All these pictures must be just for me. When I retire and have time will I appreciate looking at all these pictures? Will I delete the bad and keep only the good?

    Well actually now I am retired and have the time. However, I am busy living life, so looking at memories is way down on my priorities. Digital or physically in my hand? No difference. No usefulness for recollecting. So why did I collect things? It was not a waste of time because it was fun at the time to do and to share. Nobody else has any desire to experience any of my memories. Now the monetary value is zero. A gift to heirs? They will eventually bore, and trash or sell collections.

    Digital or in hand? Expensive or cheap? No difference in the long run. Do collecting that is fun and for you. Share your collections with friends as life happens.

    Now I am also old. Sadly for me it is no longer fun to take pictures.

Leave a Reply