On balance, I concede this brave new digital world we’re stuck to has improved my life.
But it has brought with it uncharted waters when it comes to etiquette. The plethora of new ways to get in touch and keep in touch, without all that horrid touching, is accompanied by the fact that it is harder and harder to get out of touch.
It’s become a lot easier to upset people and, while I am sure this is great news to trolls, for the majority of us it’s created a lot of stress. The example that comes to mind is that of unsubscribing from emails.
I still receive many more emails than I need to. I aspire to an empty inbox and most of the time I manage less than one page of them, but I’m not particularly ruthless when I do my pruning. I try to deal with each email only once, giving answers as quickly as possible, whether good news or bad. If you’ve emailed me a question and I haven’t answered you, it’s probably at the bottom of my list waiting for time to overtake the need for me to deal with it.
Apart from answering several genuine queries, I also spend a disproportionate amount of time deleting regular, unread emails. Things I once showed an interest in but can no longer be bothered with. Sensing all these extra clicks on “delete” were using up valuable seconds of my life, I embarked on an unsubscribe-fest. It wasn’t easy. The first few weren’t a problem – emails I had zero interest in. But the next batch summoned a sense of guilt. I imagined these to be sent from good, hard-working people at companies I had initially expressed an interest in. They were only keeping me informed, with my permission.
Often, their unsubscribe website asked pleading questions about why I was leaving. I had trouble holding direct eye-contact with the screen as I clicked to confirm our relationship was over. I wish they had an “It’s not you, it’s me” box I could’ve ticked. And even better, an option that’s not quite so final – something like, “Only send your really good emails.” A third crop of emails remain. Subscriptions I don’t read but can’t cancel. Daily, I receive one that’s meant to teach me the guitar. I never read it, but unsubscribing would be akin to admitting defeat. I want to learn guitar, just not the bit where you have to make an effort.
Similarly, I want to learn about wine and for some reason I think getting the wine club’s email everyday, then deleting it, is helping. A nerdy science one and another newsletter about guitars completes the daily foursome. And I don’t consider I have failed in my cull. I still quite like the little red bubble every morning notifying me that four people in the world still want to keep in touch.