Unsubscribing From E-mail Lists is So Much Fun

How long after someone invented e-mail did someone else invent junk e-mail? I bet there was like a five-minute lag time. I would have loved to have used e-mail during those glorious few minutes. It must have been so exciting, and non-frustrating.

I’m sure it was like the universe in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang. It all seemed so full of promise and possibility, and we hadn’t yet discovered just how badly things can get screwed up. But then black holes developed, and sucked all of the light and matter out of some parts of the universe, and we realized we’d unleashed a monster.

Okay, if you want to get technical, “we” didn’t unleash the universe in the Big Bang. “We” are responsible for junk e-mail though, and that’s ruined as much time and space as any black hole ever did.

And over the years, as I bought things online, and distributed my e-mail address without giving much thought to it, junkmail had begun to take over my inbox.

For years I’ve used my work e-mail as my personal e-mail address, so if I took a couple of days off from work I’d return to find hundreds of e-mail messages. And although I gained some satisfaction in fooling myself into thinking that I’d done some work after clearing two hundred messages from my inbox, in reality only five of those required actual work. The rest were junk.

I’m dumb sometimes, so it took me a while to realize that I could reduce my junkmail with little effort. All it takes is persistence, and a click.

Behold, the wondrous beauty of the Unsubscribe button!

At the bottom of almost every e-mail that comes from someone trying to sell you something or get you to do something, there’s a link to unsubscribe from their mailing list. Click the link, and presto! no more e-mails.

I decided to start unsubscribing just after New Year’s. When I opened my inbox that first day I had the usual multitude of messages that I had no desire to read. Instead of just deleting them, I opened them, scrolled to the bottom, and unsubscribed. It took some time, but after weeks of opening junk e-mails, I began to see a difference. I had fewer e-mails in my inbox, and less of a chance of missing something important due to the onslaught of junk.

So long Nike, Sherwin Williams, Esquire, Penn Station East Coast Subs, and OnlineLabels.com. If I haven’t bought or read anything from you in the past year, then I suspect I won’t need to hear from you anytime soon.

I unsubscribed from some e-mails without knowing how I got on their list, or what the hell the company even was. I’m looking at you Modo Labs.

But some e-mails survived my Unsubscribe massacre.

Thrillist, you can stay. Much of what you send is nonsensical drivel, but how else will I discover The Best 31 Best Donut Shops in America? And I didn’t even know that I needed to know All 26 Pringles Flavors, Ranked before you told me I did.

You can stay, too, Trivia Question of the Day. Although I’m disappointed that your questions have become easier over the past couple of years, I still click and answer every single one. I’m 1790-for-2314 (77%) lifetime, just for the record.

Other e-mails made the cut for obvious reasons (Cubs.com, Coldstone Creamery, Domino’s), and some I kept just in case (shopDisney, Eventful, Groupon).

The most intensive Unsubscribe effort has been directed at a mystery though. A couple of years ago I started getting IT-related advertising e-mails addressed to someone named Brooks. Some days I got e-mails from ten different companies that started, “Dear Brooks,” and then started talking about networks, and security, and consultants and other crap about which I don’t give a damn.

I’ve been unsubscribing from those e-mails for two months, yet a few per week still make it through. Some of them don’t have an Unsubscribe link. Instead they want me to reply to the message and type Unsubscribe. I’ve resisted doing so up to this point though, because I suspect that instead of unsubscribing me, they’ll take my response as an indication of a working e-mail address, and add me back to all of those damn lists I didn’t want to be on in the first place.

So if junkmail is dominating your inbox, start unsubscribing. You’ll feel like you accomplished something important, even though it only takes a few seconds.

Just don’t Unsubscribe from my mailing list! And if you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, do so here!

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