I find myself rarely checking my personal email account these days. I guess that's because I simply use email for less things than I used to. I'm sure it's the same way with many people. Now a days it's easy enough and more common to send text messages (including to yourself), program events into a cellphone, use social networking sites, do more discussions on message boards rather than mailing lists, etc. Even when it comes to my podcast, the feedback and questions I get from listeners more often comes through on Facebook or some message board.
That's not to say that email is obsolete. Far from it. However, I've noticed that by far and large, the new emails I do get are either spam or from mailing lists. I've talked before about deleting existing emails that amount to "digital hoarding clutter". This blog entry is more about stopping the inflow.
The spam is thankfully pretty well under control these days. A lot of web-based mail services like Gmail or Yahoo mail tend to do a good job lately at keeping spam separated. It's not flawless, but it seems to work much better than it did in internet days of old. Then again, I also use a special forwarding address in cases when I suspect it's going to be used for spam (e.g., contests, department stores, or services that I seldom use). A lot of spam these days incorporates misspelled words and special characters to avoid being picked up by spam filters, but ironically this makes the spam more easily recognizable!
So it's time to weed out some of the mailing lists I'm on. Here's what I see in my inbox.
- Freecycle newsletter. I've mentioned Freecycle before. In summary, they can be a double-edged sword for hoarders: good for giving things away, but rather dangerous if you don't have the self-control to not take the other free stuff people are giving away. While I have used Freecycle before, the bottom line is that I haven't used it in quite some time. There's really no need to keep getting emails about it every day, so I'll unsubscribe to this list for the time being.
- Music gadget mailing list. A couple of years back I bought a Yamaha rack for one of my all-too-many "back burner" projects (in this case, a musical one). I played with it for a while. Then I had to take my set-up down since the room was being swallowed up by something else. I kept on the mailing list, because in the back of my mind, I kept thinking "Well seeing these newsletters will be a good reminder to get around to using it." Well, that didn't happen. Will it someday? I'm sure. But there's no need to keep subscribed to a mailing list I'm not reading.
- Musician's Friend. This is a really great website for browsing and buying musical instruments and related accessories. Great deals, fast shipping. I recommend them, and I know I'll purchase from them again in the future. However, I don't need to see a bunch of things every week I could blow my money on and not use. So here's another unsubscribe for me.
- Concert venues, band sites, ticket vendors. I've lost track of just how many of these I get. Here's how it happens: I buy tickets to see a band or comedian at a particular venue, and from that point onward, I get updates about who's coming to town. Ditto for a few band's official fan sites. There are some places I do visit frequently and I do want the updates. On the other hand, there are venues I barely go to more than once in a 2-year period. I can drop these.
- Golf Equipment Site. A few years back, I bought a gift for my father through this website. Since then, they've been sending me the emails. In the back of my mind, I think "Well my father is frustratingly difficult to shop for, so I might buy from them again, especially if I do one of these discounts they're talking about." Well, that hasn't happened. Unsubscribe -- FORE!
- Amazon Local Deals. Do you get these? I've used some. Though I may very well drop this. I don't need coupons every day.
- Restaurants. Same as the concert venues: some I go to, some I never go to anymore. Keep subscribed to the former, unsubscribe from the latter.
Oh, and one final word of warning: sometimes when you think you're unsubscribing from a list, you're unknowingly signing yourself up for future lists. This usually happens if you find yourself on a mailing list that you DID NOT sign up for in the first place. When this happens, just delete the email. Otherwise, if it's something that you've knowingly subscribed to or did an on-line purchase from, it's not exactly "spam", so unsubscribing is typically safe. As always, when in doubt, use a throw-away email address for subscriptions!