Column: I tried to beat the email spammers. I lost.


The floodgates have recently opened on the spam folder in my email account and I have a depressing announcement to make, dear reader, for which I apologize in advance: The spam people have won.

You win, Zagat. You win, Edible Arrangements. You win, Connecticut Landmarks, FC Bayern, Golden Door International Film Festival and Miss America Festival.

You’ve all gotten an official mention from me. Now, for the love of everything that is holy: Please stop emailing me!

So we all know Al Gore invented the Internet; can I blame him for spam, too? Because I seriously don’t know who to point a finger at in this situation.

How did I get on these lists? Who is paying who to send emails to [email protected], or [email protected] — and where is my piece of it? Besides an email that ends up wallowing in the back of my inbox, of course.

Since I started using email about 20 years ago, I’ve gradually migrated from one email address to the next (farewell, AOL and my college email address; nice knowing you, Hotmail!), as the previous one gets slowly inundated with spam emails to the point where they start to choke the life out of my account in full. Then eventually, sadly, it’s time to part ways.

At this point, my Gmail account contains 2,267 unread emails, though my work email has pulled ahead with 2,641. My wife says the number on my iPhone indicating how many unread emails I have stresses her out. But if I let it bother me, I’d spend half my workday deleting emails.

Recently, though, I’ve started to fight back. I’m now an active “unsubscriber.” That’s right, I scroll to the bottom of spam emails and follow the SafeUnsubscribe link! I do “click here” when I would “rather not receive future communications” from you. Honestly, it’s nothing personal, but I don’t want an online nursing degree. I have enough student loans. (Plus, I’d be a horrible nurse.) North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands sound like a great place — but I don’t have time to explore them online. I need to learn more about things on Long Island.

So that leaves me no choice. I have to unsubscribe and, ever so slowly, winnow away the emails that are sitting unread — and read, but not yet deleted — in my inbox. Until I’m down to zero. (Unless, of course, I’m unknowingly signing up for more email lists when I click on “unsubscribe.”)

Will I ever get there? I don’t know. I don’t think so. It seems so unattainable, like crafting the beach body you see in magazines or sculpting the perfect yard they show on HGTV. The forces are just so against me; how can I hit delete so many times in a single day — or a single month — and still have time to get anything done?

Tom Hastings with the Oregon Peace Institute seems like a fine guy, but he’s really putting my back up against the old “growing inbox” wall by emailing me all these op-ed pieces about United States foreign policy — not the type of piece we generally run.

It’s a blessing and, sometimes, a curse, this interconnected world we live in. Information overload is nice when you need information — but then when you don’t, when you want to unplug, that’s not possible. Next thing you know, you have 2,600 emails in your inbox. And counting.

Maybe it’s just one of those things where there are certain types of people in this world: some people have 0 emails in their inbox and others are bound to have thousands. Some people keep a clean car, others keep a messy car. Some people alphabetize their CDs (or used to, at least), while others throw them all into the back seat.

I guess you can imagine how the inside of my car looks. Though strangely, I used to alphabetize my CD’s. Explain that one for me.

Just don’t email me your explanation. It might get deleted.

Joseph Pinciaro is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review and The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at 298-3200, ext. 238. Follow him on twitter @cjpinch.

(Photo Credit:, Joe the Goat Farmer)