Thursday, July 31, 2014

Un-Zen and the Art of Email Management

Technology frees us. Technology frees us. Technology free us. Just keep repeating that like a mantra until you believe it without question. It's just easier that way. Speaking of easier, I still remember a time when managing your mail meant walking out to your mailbox and seeing what your local Cliff Clavin brought or looking on the floor in front of the mail slot* of your front door. Ah, those were the days … if you don't mind a total stranger being able to stick something in your house through a hole in your front door at any time of day or night.

Now I check my mail through my phone, which makes no sense at all to 1980's me, and I've dedicated most of my waking hours to checking my mail through my phone because a lot of mail arrives through my phone, and I like to look at it within moments of its arrival (because it's so exciting) and stay on top of it and skim through some of it and delete most of it and put some of it in folders and leave some of it in the inbox and mark some of it as unread for weeks. It's complicated, but let me just simplify by saying that I have never let the mail icon on my iPhone ever show more than 50 unread emails. Anything more than that would be apocalyptic.

I have two email accounts if you're interested, one Yahoo account from 2004 and one more recent Gmail account. The theory of the two accounts is the following. I give out my Yahoo email address when I'm signing up for frequent shopper savings at supermarkets and pharmacies, applying for jobs that I don't really care about, signing ballots, registering for things online, and blowing off salespeople. It's great because it takes off the pressure I feel when a stranger asks me for my email address. Now I just smile and accommodate them with a little inner chuckle that says, "Go ahead, send me a useless email to this email account that I now use as a giant spam folder." 

My Gmail account was intended as something different, something more exclusive, like a VIP account. Originally, my plan when I created the Gmail account was to gradually ween myself from the Yahoo account by strategically giving out my Gmail address only to people and organizations from whom I really wanted to receive email, thus having at least one inbox that I could be certain would always contain useful emails. That was three years ago. What's the problem? I'm afraid that amid the daily barrage of useless crapmail I receive to my Yahoo email there might be one precious gem that I'm overlooking. Also, I've sometimes slipped and given my Gmail address to spammers. The lesson of this story is that having two email accounts produces twice as much email. Also, check your email settings in your accounts. I'm sure there's a way to prevent this emailmania, or maybe it's just how life is now in the ultra-modern future.

*as per Wikipedia: A slot in a wall or door through which mail is delivered (through-door delivery)

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