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Too Many Emails

On August 15, 2004, I created my first email account with Yahoo. My first email was a welcome message informing me that I had a whopping 250MBs of email storage.

On October 9, 2013 I retrieved the first email message ever received before it was deleted. I am glad that I was able to preserve this screenshot thanks to a Tweet I posted about it on Twitter.

For many years, I used this account exclusively and gleefully sent and received emails from my middle school classmates. When it came time to search for universities and scholarships, I used this email to request more information.

My college search was the beginning of the end for this email account. I signed up for many scholarship programs, and that’s when the emails started to pour in. My email account began to become unusable. Actual malicious spam began to flood my inbox.

Thousands of emails flowed in, some legitimate, others dangerous, both were too much for me to keep up. So I began blocking as many email addresses as I could.

At the time, Yahoo allowed for a block list of 500 addresses. I used every last one of them and still couldn’t get the spam under control.

Shortly after that, I began experimenting with other email providers. Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, and dot Mac (later known as MobileMe and finally iCloud). I made dozens of email accounts and ultimately gravitated to Gmail and iCloud.

I wanted an iCloud account because I was a big fan of Apple, but once I ran out of storage, I switched over to Gmail. Gmail has been my email provider of choice since, because of the tabs that sort personal messages from promotional ones. Even with these measures, I still manage to get 43,000 emails.

Other inbox and were tools I used to filter out some of the marketing emails. Even with these tools, my Gmail account finally did fill up, and soon, I was off creating more Gmail accounts.

The trouble with email today is that so many businesses find it necessary to spam me into purchasing their product or service. These practices make my inbox practically useless. At some point, I’ll run out of storage, and I either have to spend my money to expand it just to receive more of these unnecessary emails or simply create a new account.

Marketing works when few are using a particular method. But, when everyone does it, we have information pollution. Think of it as an environmental hazard, but for your brain.

With news sites, broadcast television, social media, and political campaigns all trying to get our attention, we have such little awareness that we can give.

Marketers who use emotion, particularly negative emotions, pollute the public’s mental health with negativity. Everyone else shortens our attention spans as we are overwhelmed with too much, mostly useless information.

I recognize that if this were 1999, this blog post would likely reach more than it does today. There are 250 billion websites (not all of them active), more sites than people on the earth.

We can’t all be number one on Google. We can’t all have everyone’s attention all the time. So we should focus on getting the attention of those who actually want what we have to offer. It’s easier that way.