Prompted by this cartoon that we recently shared on our Facebook page, I made a decision to deliberately tackle all of the spam in my inbox…with results that were surprising to me. It turned out that unsubscribing actually worked!
The time waster that is spam
I chuckled when I first saw the cartoon, with St. Peter telling someone how many years of their life they had spent dealing with spam. And then it hit me: Wait, I am spending time dealing with spam! Between work and family, I’m a busy guy! I have zero spare time, so why would I waste one second of it on the emails and spam I don’t want in my inbox in the first place?
I decided to actually tackle the problem, and it turned out to be easier to deal with than I expected.
Stating the obvious: unsubscribe
In the inbox of my personal email, I was getting at least one hundred spam messages per day. By spam, I mean real spam. At least 80% of this stuff was selling things like land in Costa Rica and Viagra. Very little was email from companies I used to do business with but no longer do. I hadn’t bothered to unsubscribe from any of the spam emails because I had this notion that doing so would only tell them I was “real” and the barrage of emails would increase. Besides, who would believe a spammer would honor an unsubscribe request?
Still, it was worth a try. I meticulously went through my inbox, opening each spam message and clicking on the unsubscribe link. Not every email offered one. This is spam we’re talking about after all! Based on my rough estimates, however, I’d say 80% offered a link, 10% didn’t, and the other 10% did but the link didn’t work.
For those that did have a real unsubscribe link, I dutifully clicked.
I honestly expected nothing to happen as a result of all that effort. Yet, something did happen: The amount of spam in my personal inbox has decreased by approximately half.
I’m not really sure what that means, except that maybe these spammers clearly understand the value of an email and the importance of not being blacklisted. They might be adding my email address to their lists illegally, but I assume that since they’re monetizing what they’re doing, they are being responsive to my request to be removed.
The takeaway here? I think we will always have spam. I don’t see how we can ever wholly protect our email addresses from being compromised and our inboxes from being invaded—it’s usually just a matter of time. I was getting one hundred spam messages per day and that’s only what was getting through my spam filters.
But we’re not helpless either. To deal with the spam issue, some people change email addresses, while others increase the filtering. There is no perfect solution. Mine is to have light filtering for the obvious, and now unsubscribe when I see a link.
It will be interesting to see if this helps or hurts me in the long run. Either way, when I stand before St. Peter someday, I’m hoping the time wasted on spam during my lifetime was a minimum.