Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Inbox Overload

I'm always surprised at how common letters like this one are:

Dear Amy: I agree with "Curious in California," who doesn't understand why people flood others with forwarded e-mail.

Every day I have to wade through jokes, alerts, political diatribes and chain letters from people who copied their entire address book.

I have ceased giving my e-mail address to some family members to avoid the inevitable deluge. I wish my husband would adopt the same practice.

He spends most evenings reading these items because he doesn't have the heart to just delete them. Consequently, we hardly ever have a conversation beyond the dinner table. — Frustrated in Oregon

I don't know....I just don't really encounter this problem anymore....or if I do, I don't notice it. Five or seven years ago, I remember getting tons of chain letters and forwards and giant animated religious and political messages....but people don't forward this stuff to me anymore. Interestingly, I think it occurs more among my parents and people their age--my peers seem to have cooled off with this kind of thing.

Or, perhaps, they've just transferred their energies for mass distribution of jokes, pictures, etc. to Facebook, MySpace, etc.. That's probably true....and I guess that's not a bad thing, because it seems easier to ignore there. In the facebook world, it's less that you're sticking others with pictures, stories, jokes and messages they don't want, and more that you're posting it to your OWN area....it's up to others to read if they want. That seems just, somehow, if only because when you post something really annoying, you have to look at it, too.

This is not to say that I get only personal emails directed specifically to me giving me information that I need/want. I delete 20+ emails a day, most of them from my school and sent to all students, containing information that doesn't apply to me, or that I simply don't have the time and energy to process.

It's tempting for me to say to these folks who get so fed up with pointless emails that it's just like junk mail! You don't have to read it. A response is not expected (why DO people want the same poem they just sent you to be sent back to them, anyway?). It's not personal--but that's probably hard to grasp when the email comes in from your brother, aunt, cousin, or colleague because it clearly SEEMS personal.

It just makes me a little crazy that these people write in as if they are the only ones dealing with this situation. To me it seems comparable to saying "Every time I commute to my job during rush hour, traffic is terrible! This is so annoying! How do you recommend that I tell others not to use the road during my time? What can I do?"

Information overload is annoying, but everyone is dealing with it....so just....deal. Start to pay attention to who sends you funny stuff and who sends you annoying stuff and read or delete accordingly. Or block certain addresses from your inbox. Or go through all new messages and delete anything with a [Fwd] in front of it before you even start reading. Or ask your friend to remove you from her list. Or respond with really rude, angry messages to the people who send you junk. There are as many ways to deal with annoying emails as there are people. This is just a part of life now. The information superhighway is as crowded as I-90....so find a way to avoid it, accept it, or alter it.


thesamsanator said...

Hmm... this seems to strangely relate to my latest blog post.

Interesting that you say we've transferred our energy from forwarding to Facebook, etc. which is good because it is easier to ignore there. Is it easier to ignore? I can find myself trapped in Facebook (or more recently, Twitter) for HOURS if I'm not careful.

Becky said...

I absolutely get trapped in facebook, but I feel like it's of my own volition--whereas when I have a million useless emails in my inbox, it feels more like a barrage, like others are invading my space, my personal inbox, with their junk. Do you think, or do you not sense a difference?

thesamsanator said...

Honestly, I think the whole Facebook home screen feed thingy is incredibly invasive. I really could care less that my friend took ten quizzes and found out that she is most like Jasmin from Aladdin and was born to be a costume designer. I know there are ways to filter that content, but I feel I shouldn't have to. I also feel like I have absolutely no control who posts what about me, and I can un-tag myself all I want, but that won't stop my friends from seeing various pictures and videos and recognizing me anyway. At least with useless e-mails, I can read them at will, delete them if I want, and it remains private. On Facebook, I feel I have absolutely no control. And even less control when they changed their terms and said they can keep anything anyone posts on there for their own use. That was changed back, thank goodness, but it just goes to show you how much power Facebookers do have. I wouldn't have a Facebook profile if it weren't for the fact that many people don't even use e-mail anymore, and I like to stay in touch.

Becky said...

I agree that the new home screen feed shares a lot more than anyone really cares to know.

I was just trying to speculate on why people get so enraged at email forwards that tehy feel the need to write to advice columnists (and in droves...this is a really common topic).

Email forwards annoy me when I get them, which is not often anymore--the only parallel I can come up with for that type of unsolicited sharing of info is facebook. Which, yes, people find annoying but they either quit facebook, change their filters, or protest/complain within the facebook world.

Nobody is writing to Abby saying "my newsfeed is full of annoying quiz results! What should I do? Make people behave better on facebook!" because most people perceive that it's a problem with the system, not with the users, who can do whatever they want--we just don't care about it.

I think emails feel more PERSONALLY annoying because you want to know why your PERSONAL friend felt the need to send this directly to YOU.

This doesn't really address the privacy/tagging/posting ABOUT you that you raised, and which are really importnat. I'm just looking at the parallels between facebook and email as means of sending out lots of frivolous information to the world.

Becky said...

I don't know, maybe I'm not being farsighted enough and aware enough about what's being done with my information...but somehow I don't have a problem just using facebook for what I want to use it for. I pretty much just ignore the home page and stick to my profile and to "friends." Not that that means they're doing a great job with it, because clearly I find it useless and difficult to navigate. But there are things I want to use and do, so I just...do. I don't feel overwhelmed or invaded by it.

thesamsanator said...

"I think emails feel more PERSONALLY annoying because you want to know why your PERSONAL friend felt the need to send this directly to YOU."

I totally agree. I guess the only times I ever get these forwards are from my grandparents, and that doesn't really bother me. I guess Facebook is just the new FWD button. :)