Emotional Burden of Being on a List

When you teach, you hand out business cards. You also hand them out at events, meetings, and during business introductions. So it’s not surprising when people who have your card add you to their mailing list. Even when you didn’t ask for them to start sending you their newsletter, jokes, prayer requests or chain letters, they believe that a business card is a permission slip.

This poor woman has no legs.

This poor woman has no legs.

Getting away seems easy. Most mass-mailings have an unsubscribe button. I use it frequently. But “unsubscribe” is not an anonymous as I’d wished. Once I’d unsubscribed, I’d get an email that said something like, “you indicated you wanted this mail, so I’m confused why you are unsubscribing.” A long time ago, a wise boss said that grumpy letter writers rarely could be turned into pen pals. So I don’t answer.

And then the replies get personal. From mild annoyance to downright hostile, people put me back on their lists, send me emails wanting to know if I’m angry with them, and explaining that jokes, prayer requests and chain letters can “brighten my day.”

Alas, they do not brighten my day. I’ve seen the jokes on Facebook (a dozen times), find it difficult to send heartfelt prayers for people I don’t know and whose ailment is dire, but unspecified. (I’m not asking). Chain letters are not worth thinking about, much less answering. Even the needy, “I want you to know how much I care about you, so now you have to care about me” kind, which ask me to send the letter to six of my friends as well as return it to the sender. So they can use the addresses of my friends? I think not.

spamGetting out of these lists is next to impossible. Last week, almost 1,000 of them came through my inbox. It’s hard to disconnect, I don’t want to hurt people, but it finally became clear: this isn’t about hurting someone’s feelings. This is about someone wanting to guilt me into staying on their marketing list.

There are a lot of connections I value. Personal emails, business connections, and the blogs I subscribe to are all valuable to me. Un-asked for mail deserves consideration, but after I’ve considered it, it would be kind if the sender accepted my decision. No, even in the marketing world, still means No.

Quinn McDonald is working on not feeling guilty for weeding out her inbox. She does wish people would check Snopes.com before they believe everything they read.