Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Tortured Relationship With Email

Up until very recently, I had over 2,000 unopened messages in my Gmail inbox. Does that freak you out? It's okay if it does. Obviously these neglected emails weren't from family members or business contacts, and they certainly weren't declarations of unrequited love (those I make sure to open right away). No, these emails were just promotions from stores, newsletters I accidentally subscribed to, and really weird PR requests (this might be a good time to let PR reps know that I will never write an article about some former NCIS cast member who is publishing a book about salads. Not my thing).

When I've explained my inbox situation, many people usually respond, "Oh girl, that's a lot," or "OH GIRL, I've got 5,000 emails in mine!" There are others, however, who've nearly started convulsing at the mere thought of the unopened emails I've accumulated. You would have thought that instead of saying I had a crowded inbox full of emails, I had said that I had a crowded refrigerator full of human heads. "What?! Are you serious? How could you, you MONSTER?!"

And while I can't quite relate with this intense reaction, I totally get that email is a thing that stresses people out. I mean, hello, it stresses me out. Recently, I caved and decided to perform a merciless inbox purge. I used to unsubscribe from over 500 lists and I blocked the MTA from sending me updates about the B train every three minutes. As of right now, I only have one new email in my inbox.

And you know what, my life isn't any better for it.

Honestly, now my inbox is just this thing that I'm constantly having to maintain, like a garden that I never asked for or some unsightly upper lip hairs THAT I DEFINITELY DO NOT HAVE OKAY?! Every day it seems like I'm somehow added to more lists or I'm missing an important email because it ends up in my spam folder. Keeping up with the health of my inbox just feels like I'm fighting a losing battle.

But email wasn't always like this. In fact, there used to be a certain romance to the concept of email. I know this because of the film You've Got Mail, the 1998 classic wherein a highly unlikely pair -- an owner of a bookstore and an owner of a larger bookstore -- develop a romance by sending lengthy emails about bouquets of pencils and the Upper West Side and whatever else those two weirdos felt like gabbing about. I also know about the romance of email because of a string of technology-centered love songs that came out in the late 90s, the most delightful of which was certainly Britney Spears's Email My Heart (by the way, if you've not heard this song before, or if it's been a good ten years since you last heard it, treat yourself to a listen. It's pure gold).

So what happened exactly? How did email get to be so unsexy? While I can't be completely certain, I would say that the decline began with email forwards -- those chain letters that usually ended with "FORWARD THIS 2 10 PEOPLE OR ELSE UR TRU <3 WILL DIE VIOLENTLY IN A FYRE!" It got particularly bad once elderly relatives caught wind of this practice. I mean, there is nothing like an email forward to make a person realize that their Uncle Jeff is actually a racist. 

But for me, email started becoming the impossible headache that it is whenever I signed up for Gap's newsletter. Did you know that Gap owns, like, everything? Gap, Baby Gap, Gap Body, Old Navy, Old Navy Outlet, Banana Republic, Athleta, Piperlime -- these are all Gap subsidiaries. And do you know how I know that? Because ALL THESE FOOLS ARE SENDING ME EMAILS ON THE REG. LIKE, EVERY DAMN HOUR OF EVERY DAMN DAY. 

And I know I can just unsubscribe (and believe me, I have), but ugh, you get the picture: email has a lot of problems. Spam, viruses, privacy concerns -- these are just a few of the most common things that suck about it. But there's also the embarrassment of accidentally hitting "Reply All" or that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you wake up at 3 AM realizing you forgot to respond to that urgent email and now you're probably fired. It's all just rough.

But email is a necessary evil. I know this. Without it, I wouldn't receive super helpful newsletters from The Nectar Collective or amazing memes from my sister, such as this gem:

So sure, there are definitely upsides. But still, I sometimes reminisce about the days when I didn't have an email account. It was a time in which I was just a little less accessible. I was, like, ten-years-old, but whatever, you catch my drift: I was a freer person back then. There wasn't some strange place on the Internet where Gap could send me targeted ads about stretchy denim. When someone sent me mail, it was usually my grandma, and I never felt rushed to respond to it. And as far as I knew at that time, spam was just some terrible meat my dad was always eating straight out of the can. Life was simpler then.

But I'm not ten-years-old anymore. I'm a grown ass lady with grown ass responsibilities and a grown ass inbox to prove it. And for the most part, I'm fine with it. But just, like, back up off me, Gap. 

How about you? On a scale of 1 - 1,000, how angry does your email inbox make you?


  1. Ugh, the emails never end! Sometimes I feel like I'm going to miss an important one too among all the others. No matter how much I try to unsubscribe to things, I always end up on a million more lists somehow!

  2. I get your point perfectly. In the beginning, e-mail was fun. We didn't get a ton of unsolicited messages. What ruined it was commercialism -- businesses larding our in-boxes with endless ads. Today, two-thirds of my messages are crap. As you describe, it can be overwhelming to wade through that to clear out your box.

  3. I have 7 different e-mail accounts. Once one of them gets too overwhelming with unopened e-mails. I stop using it and start another account. Technically, I'm a grown ass lady as well. Technically.

  4. Hey Christy,

    while I never have unopened emails I sure do have a cluttered inbox. It suck and every once in a while I go through and delete like crazy.
    With all the newsletters however I came up with a strategy years ago. I have one email address dedicated to newsletter. Every newsletter I sign up to goes there. If I feel too overwhelmed I can always delete this email, get a new one and my inbox is all clear.
    Have a great Sunday, Tobia

  5. I totally see myself in this possum photo (that is possum right?). And as for the email situation, you made me laugh. fortunately there is no GAP in this god forsaken wilderness of a contry where I live, so I am safe for now. But, my inbox has gazillion unread messages, mostly garbage stuff I so need to unsubscribe from, but I am kind of cool with it, i really dont stress so much, I would just kind of liked if they all somehow disapered from inbox all together, without me beeing too involved. I need to check out this wizard :)


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