Thursday, May 21, 2020

Stay In! Unsubscribe-O-Rama

by Peggy Robin

People ask me how I’m spending my free time during the coronavirus lockdown. I will tell you: what little free time I have is taken up with the task of un-subscribing from all the email blasts I never signed up to receive. This activity feels like it’s become a new part-time job. You know I’m spending all day on my computer anyway, now that the listserv is running at double-time, due to the coronoavirus pandemic, but on top of the daily torrent of listserv submissions, there’s a daily deluge of messages urgently seeking my support for everyone everywhere in need.

Let me be clear: I’m not talking about spam. I’m talking about worthy, often wonderful organizations that I wholeheartedly support. These are organizations that are feeding people after hurricanes, and are doing so here and now, for people who’ve lost their jobs due to coronavirus. They’re working for political equality, or trying to free reporters locked up abroad, or they want to end voter suppression or reverse the injustices of mass incarceration. Dear Peggy, they write, we need your help at this moment in history. You see, they're all on a first name basis with me – especially the political candidates. And they think I’m on a first name basis with them. But I’m feeling less and less friendly, given all the extra time they're making me spend each day, going delete, delete, delete.

Now I admit, I gave these organizations and candidates my email address voluntarily, usually when I contributed a bit of money. So I can’t say that I never wanted them to contact me. Just not every single day of the year. And some of them do it two or three times a day, every day. And when I get up in the morning, I see more's come in overnight. They never sleep.

When I realize I’m spending too much time per day deleting the same email from the same organization, that’s when finally hit the unsubscribe link. You might think this would take all of five seconds. But no. You have to scroll down, down, down, to the very end of the long pitch letter, and then find the teeny-tiny type that says “unsubscribe.” You click it, but you’re still not done. You may need to figure out which of your several email addresses is the one they’ve got you under, and confirm that’s the one you want taken off their list.  Before they let you go, they may badger you to answer some questions, tell them why you want out. 

The really insidious trick is to offer to send you less email. I’ve fallen for that one any number of times. They say they’ll cut way back, and I believe them, and so I don’t quit entirely. Then, for the next few days, maybe even a few weeks, the flood goes down to a trickle. Maybe just one a week. That’s OK, I can live with that. But it never stays that way. I put it out of my mind for a time, and so I don’t notice that it's slowly, slowly creeping back up again. The day comes around when I’m deleted a bunch of emails, and I think to myself, haven’t I unsubscribed from this list already? Or maybe I asked them to cut back? I can't remember, and I'm not keeping records to check. That would be even more time-consuming than going through the unsubscribe process again. So I find myself clicking the unsubscribe link again, for the same organization.

On top of all this, unsubscribing doesn’t always work. A lot of the time, the email just keeps coming. without a break. Or maybe they do unsubscribe me for a short time, and then they buy the maling list from a similar organization, and there's my email address again. 

I already know what advice I will get from my wise readers out there. Don’t give them your real email address, you goose! Use a disposable email address -- get yourself a whole slew of them that you can create on the fly, each time you donate to an organization or support a candidate. Yes, I’ve heard that advice many times. But the thing is, when I first give to the organization, I do want to hear from them. I want an acknowledgement that they’ve received my donation. I need a tax receipt for the IRS. I do want to know what they’re up to and learn if they are making a difference. So I don’t want to be totally out of the loop. I just don’t want to be so in the loop that my inbox is overflowing, and I'm left feeling that I’ve been thrown for a loop.

Is there a happy medium? I haven’t found it yet, but if anyone out there has got a working solution that doesn’t involve any of the following: a) disposable email addresses; b) never giving any money to any charities, cause organizations or candidates for office; or c) going off to live in a cave somewhere far off the grid – by all means email me. I won't delete your message!

The Stay In! column is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Thursdays.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said. I am sure many on in the same boat.

    One suggestion I have heard is creating ONE permanent "charitable, political, donation, listserve" email address, and funnel email to that address for later occasional perusal; or anytime you receive a "first" message from a listserve, copy the "FROM" address, and put it in an email filter, which funnels those messages to a separate folder that you can open and examine when you have time.

    It wont save doing the delete dance, but at least it's easier to skim, and bulk delete like messages that appear every day.

    Full disclosure, I havent done myself, part laziness, part once a message is "out of sight, its out of mind" and I wont remember to look at it, and part unless I stay on top of a separate email inbox folder, it will quickly fill to become overwhelming and I will never deal with it.

    I find that unsubscribing from marginal lists does tend to be permanent, or I can unsubscribe once in a while without too much annoyance if they come back. Limiting the list to "fewer emails" also damps things down enough to be tolerable, and again I always can unsubscribe again.

    I suppose the bottom line, is do you want to delete 50 messages a day, or unsubscribe once in awhile?

    I wonder if anyone has created an app for listserve email/subscription management?