The Great Unsubscribing (and a request for sources for stories)

IMG_0663I know email marketing works. I have a newsletter. I have also made purchases because a company has emailed me a deal and it triggered a thought that I needed X, Y, or Z. Over time, however, the sheer volume of marketing communication starts to become overwhelming. Perhaps it’s the journalism thing, but I have also been added to a lot of newsletter lists that I am pretty sure I never signed up for. I know some inboxes are configured to shove promotions to a different folder but since I do read some regularly I have always found it easier to delete delete delete.

Over the weekend, however, I snapped. I was tired of getting to my inbox in the morning, having 75 unread messages and only caring about 10 of them. I was tired of returning from lunch to find 50 more unread emails and caring about two. So instead of deleting, I started unsubscribing from everything that I did not read.

This revealed a few things. First, some of the worst culprits were emailing me multiple times per day. When I would click the manage-email-preferences link, I would see that I was automatically signed up to get everything: a daily newsletter, plus partner emails, plus hot deals or what have you. Since when I purchase things online I almost always un-click the auto-subscribe button, I suspect some companies are skirting on the edge of the law here. I also realized that email marketing is forever. I purchased a pair of bike shorts from a company 11 years ago…and have probably been receiving emails once or twice a week from them ever since, without ever making another purchase (I shudder to think how much time I have spent deleting those emails).

I also learned the word for “unsubscribe” in multiple languages. I have no idea how I got on these lists since I cannot even read them. I have one particular company that emails me multiple times per day and I cannot figure out how to unsubscribe from everything (they do not make it easy), but at least I un-clicked most of the 12 newsletters they had me on.

The good news is that a blast of unsubscribing over the weekend has already had an effect. Normally I would have had 75 new unread emails this morning. Instead, I had 32 — and since I cared about 10 of them (as usual), this did not seem nearly as oppressive. I suspect the 75+ others I would otherwise get over the day will also be diminished.

In other news: Following up on the story I wrote a few weeks ago about How To Be A Better Friend, Even If You’re Busy, I am writing about how to turn a work friendship into a rest-of-life friendship. Since we go to work with alarming frequency, it is somewhat easy to make friendly acquaintances there. But turning these work relationships into true friendships can be more difficult. I would love to hear from friends (or even friend pairs!) who have made it work.

Also, I am working on a story about how some people have made a little extra money with platforms for the on-demand economy (driving for Uber/Lyft, doing Task Rabbit, etc.). This publication is generally aimed at people 50-plus and so while I know some twenty-something people who have done this, I am hoping to find some examples in the 50-plus demographic.

As always, please email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com. Those are emails I want!

Photo: Pull up the drawbridge against spammers! This castle came home from one of my husband’s recent trips to IKEA. The green tube in the background arrived after a different trip.

19 thoughts on “The Great Unsubscribing (and a request for sources for stories)

  1. I also had an email unsubscribe purge this weekend myself. I blame the uptick of marketing emails on Sumo and Lead Pages but agree that some companies/bloggers are sneaky about their tactics.

    I’m tired of people’s claims that they are “connecting” with me, when they are really attempting to connect with my wallet!

  2. I did this last year and it was tremendously freeing! I went from having 50+ emails every time I checked, to just 10-15. Unfortunately I get a lot of unwanted messages in my work email—unreputable journals soliciting articles, fly-by-night conferences asking me to give a talk (and pay for the honor by registering for their conference!), etc… There is no way to unsuscribe (they get my email from manuscripts I’ve already published), and it takes a substantial amount of time to delete them all.

    1. @Ana- the work ones are harder. Since they are “targeted” to a degree, if completely off the mark, it’s not going to have the same easy unsubscribe options. There are a few PR agencies and people who email me multiple times a week with pitches that are not relevant (I have never covered pets, for instance). I probably should email and say just that and redirect them to the topics I do cover but…it seems like extra work and it’s always easier to delete.

  3. I found it interesting that all of the daytime Uber drivers I have had in the NoVa suburbs have been older men. Based on my conversations with them, I think they are using it to supplement their retirement and the daytime hours are less risky in terms of the kinds of passengers.

  4. Well said, Laura.

    Waking up to pages of non-essential made me feel like I was behind before I even started my day.

    I practice mindfulness. I am a life-long learner. And, I discovered I have a deep FOMO (fear of messing out).

    I implemented a process of email elimination over a course of a month. Every day I stopped to consciously see if the emails in my box were still relevant. I hit the unsubscribe button – freedom.

    I also set up a generic email account- one only for newsletters. I check-the generic account a few times during the week. The result, I am more relaxed and more productive. In the process I cut my newsletter email delivery from close to a hundred to less than twenty.

    1. @Judith – I have also realized just how many times I was checking email, and I think one of the reasons is that there was always something there, and even though it was nothing I cared about, I felt productive deleting the junk. Now I have had a few times this morning where, amazingly enough, there were no new messages. I am hoping (hoping) that over time this reduces my feeling that I should check.

  5. Yesyesyes on companies who send emails even if you uncheck the email box – I started keeping screen shots and this happens a lot. Victoria’s Secret is one example – will never buy from them again. WHBM doesn’t even offer me the choice. Those are only two examples.

    I have a spam account but sometimes it’s more convenient to get order updates to my regular account. Sigh.

    Glad the email purge went well!

  6. I have found Unroll.Me to be a good solution to both quickly unsubscribing from unwanted email lists while also allowing me to efficiently review the emails from lists that I do want to see. It is a free service and accomplishes this with one daily digest of all email subscriptions and the ability to unsubscribe from anything with 1-2 clicks right in the same digest.

  7. I have a specific (never checked) email that I give out for all online purchases so that all spam goes into one place and I never see it – unless I have to log in to check on an order issue.

  8. I sign up for a lot and then realize later what a time waster it all is. I’ve been thinking it’s time to trim it all again. But I have almost as hard a time with virtual clutter as I have dealing with real clutter!

    I use Google as my backend to my email domain. Being able to use their Inbox client and have lots of automatic filtering really helps the clutter.

  9. I unsubscribe to anything I’m not interested in, but I also created a ‘bacn’ folder for all of the newsletters that I do want, but don’t want clogging up my inbox, and I set filters for them to be automatically directed there. I check in when I’m taking a lunch break, and periodically clear the whole folder to get rid of any backlog. The name helps to remind me that reading that stuff is a ‘treat’ and doesn’t actually count as productivity!

  10. This topic (newsletters) is front and centre for me lately. As I work for myself, I have been told many times that I should have a newsletter. But, because I don’t sell a physical product and because I am booked into 2017, I’m not looking for a lot of new business. Plus, as someone who has also unsubscribed from a zillion newsletters, I know that people get way too many and that many go unopened.
    So, I’m going old school and mailing (!!!) a newsletter to my network – current and past clients, colleagues, mentors, and some dream clients. Not sure what this looks like yet, but I did commit to completing this by the end of June. It will be interesting to hear what the response is… I’m hoping for anything but radio silence! Truly, I hope that receiving a piece of mail is whimsical enough to make recipients smile (I bought Star Trek stamps!) while also helping my network understand the work I’ve been doing lately, and providing some kind of actionable information gleaned from something I’ve learned or done lately.
    Fingers crossed!

  11. I have the pleasure of working with one of my best friends. Our relationship started slowly, but has built over the past 10 years. Several of my life long friends are work friends. Many have come along because we have children similar in age and through activities have built a relationship. My best friend is childless and keeps me grounded. Because she has no children, she is my life line to my adult personal life. She enjoys stories about my kids, but will quickly remind me that I have other interests and hobbies and so does she and can we talk about that! We got a long at work, then went out to eat a few times, then grocery shopping (it’s wierd, but we not love ethnic grocery stores), and eventually trips.

  12. Unsubscribe is the way to go. It may take 7-10 days to cease receiving these emails, I try to do the same with catalogues; instead if just dumping them
    In the recycling bin, I try to call and have the company remove my name from their list.
    Reducing unnecessary clutter, whether electronic or paper, is so very helpful.

  13. I’ve done the unsubscribe binge a few times, and the worst is when the notification says “You are now unsubscribed but you may still receive our emails for 7-10 days.” WHY? I cannot fathom why an unsubscribe request can’t be processed immediately by email servers in 2016.

  14. Related: social media unfollowing. I found myself scrolling past a lot of stuff in Facebook and Instagram in particular – accounts I had liked or followed at one point but don’t actually want to see all the time on my way to seeing more personally relevant content. Clearing my feeds of some of this stuff has been very satisfying.

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