By Grace Williams*
You know what makes me anxious? Unread emails.
Yes, I am that person who compulsively archives every unwanted email I receive. I can’t stand to see the little red dot pop up on my phone. Even my work email is pristine; the only unread emails are purposefully left so that I don't forget to follow up on them. And considering that I work in the tech industry and get a slew of automated emails every day, I get that this is particularly neurotic of me. Some of my coworkers have unread emails in the thousands. *eye twitch*
When I noticed how I was reacting to all these unwanted emails, I started wondering what it is about them that gives me such anxiety. Is it that fear of missing out (FOMO) on whatever bargain deal someone is always launching? The worry of some forgotten obligation? Or is it the feeling of accomplishment I only get when all tasks are crossed off my list?
It shouldn’t matter. I realized that so much of what I was archiving wasn’t even relevant to my life. Why was I getting barraged by all these emails I never read? There were lists that I didn’t even remember signing up for (and, most likely, I never did).
So, this past month I started pulling out the weeds from my inbox. Rather than archiving all the junk I didn’t want to read, I took the proactive approach and UNSUBSCRIBED. I opened all those unwanted emails and went hunting for the hidden links. I checked boxes and filled out forms and hit that Unsubscribe button again and again.
And it was so satisfying.
Even when those cutesy marketing ploys popped up, begging me not to unsubscribe from their super-awesome list, I vengefully clicked that button anyway. I was ruthless. No weak moments.
It took a few weeks to notice the difference, but eventually I found myself only swiping through 5 or 6 emails in my junk account instead of the 30+ emails I was used to seeing every morning. For such a small change, I can’t believe how effective it has been. It’s like that feeling you get after cleaning your room or finally donating those old clothes to Goodwill. I even told my roommate about my unsubscribe crusade and she confessed a few days later that she’d started doing the exact same thing.
I know I’m not the only one with email anxiety because there are many other articles addressing this issue (Read: Business Insider’s “Here’s why email gives us so much anxiety” and The Muse’s “The Scientific Reasons Why Email Makes You So Anxious"). So if you’re like me and have been nodding along while reading this post, then you know the next step. You can do something about this. No, it won’t get rid of all the junk emails, but carry on with the crusade and find those “Unsubscribe Me” links. Trust me, it feels good and your inboxes will bloom with enticing messages once more!
And if you’re one of those happy-go-lucky souls who isn’t bothered by unending emails and the annoying red dot, then do me a favor and don’t tell me about it. I’ll get twitchy. (I’m looking at you, Dad... if you’re reading this, PLEASE do something about the 14,000+ unread emails you have!)
The only downside I’ve found to this recent change? Now I’m way more likely to click on those sales emails from the few companies on whose lists I stayed. My poor bank account.
*Grace is a project manager at a fast-paced tech company and she loves a good mimosa with her brunch. She lives in Richmond, VA with a roommate and two cats. When not working, she’s probably picking apart her novel draft or cooking something ambitious.
Check out her other stories on ATOB: