How To End a Toxic Relationship With Email

My inbox held me captive — barriers had been breached, trust and agreements broken, and it was time to set things straight

A large chunk of my day is spent in senseless distraction — hours of time plodding through an endless stream of email brimming with meaningless rhetoric from unwanted visitors.

Admittedly, I’ve become a slave to the click of my mouse — the too-easy access impossible to ignore.

And with my concentration diverted to the familiar Outlook screen, my attention is drawn to a living nightmare of newly-arrived messages.

It’s overwhelming.

Scanning the continuous input scatters my focus — my brain splintering in a dozen confusing directions until I manage to delete some small portion of incoming debris.

But it’s only a temporary fix, the evicted email now residing in a trash folder waiting for more of my attention — and begging for one more chance before being banished to the cornfield.

I realize the wasted time is irretrievable. Even worse, the effort I spend filtering through a litany of energy-sucking messages, offers, and e-zines often leaves me empty and drained.  Why do I continue putting up with all those irritating and irrelevant intruders expecting an immediate response to sign up now or take advantage of a special offer before midnight tonight?

Despite the occasionally polite introductions and urgent calls to action, the bulk of messages are unsolicited, unwanted, and completely unnecessary. Worse, the glut of bottom feeders are quickly revealed by untraceable senders offering no method to opt out of the madness.

My frustration level finally peaked when I realized I’d lost control of my info stream.

It was time to end the assault. Devising a plan of action, I committed to eradicating the offenders one-by-one. I began slowly, knowing the mountain could only be moved a rock at a time.

And that’s when I formed an immediate bond with my new best friend: the “Unsubscribe” button. Our courtship was short, the connection instant. Yet I knew it would take time to understand all the nuances.

But now my direction had a purpose.

The purging turned into a joyous activity, to say the least. Eradicating the bulging mass of BS from my computer’s memory gave me reason to give up several lunch breaks to continue the cleansing ritual.

My excitement grew with each “Unsubscribe” click at the bottom of an undeserving message. Disposing of wasteful bits of diatribe was exhilarating — until I opened a particularly cryptic suspect requiring me to verify my email address and complete a survey of why we were parting company.

Wait a minute … didn’t this desperate hunter already have my email? Hadn’t this tenacious stranger previously captured my digital fingerprint?

But there was an ever bigger question: Would providing my email — voluntarily this time, in an effort to end our one-sided relationship — result in becoming an unwillingly victim, to be added to yet another list?

This sneaky Catch-22 caught me by surprise, slowing my progress. My newfound buddy, the Unsubscribe button, could only take me so far.

A decision had to be made. Should I continue to allow the delivery of unwelcome inbox messages — leaving well enough alone — or should I attempt to cut the cord by sacrificing my email address to a sender that already my information on record?

Rather than waste more energy debating the risk of one approach over the other, I decided to temporarily pass on finding closure with those who insisted on holding me captive with implied threats of even greater exposure to unruly trespassers. I’m considering these errant emails a necessary evil — an entity to be tolerated — until the unsubscribe link comes to its senses and begs forgiveness.

After a few more sessions of ruthless deleting, a review of my trash folder brought some insight. For now, there were enough spam-bodies lying breathless in the field to give me a sense of victory, even though the process of extermination will continue to be ongoing.

On the positive side, I noticed I’m sleeping a little better at night. And I’m no longer being chased by snarling mailboxes in my dreams.

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