Tech Talk

Email Avalanche


Email, email, email, and more email. Am I right?

I recently got a new email address. I’m not in the witness protection program, I’m not reinventing myself after too many bad Tinder dates, and I’m not running from the law. I got a new email address because I had to. After more than ten blissful years of reliable, loyal service, I could no longer manage my overflowing, unruly inbox.

We had a good run, me and that old email address. I used it to flirt with my husband when we first met. I used it to negotiate the purchase of our first house and our second house. I used it to plan our first international trip. I even used it to sign up for my first full marathon. We laughed, we cried, we celebrated.

But all of that is over now. Every day, I get at least 50 new emails in my inbox. But that’s not all. I have rules set up that automatically route more than 100 more emails to custom folders. And then there’s the email that goes straight into junk or spam. All told, I probably receive around 200 emails a day. Every. Single. Day.

It’s too much. The volume of spam that rolls in at all hours of the day and night is mind-boggling. And it makes me wonder, how did I get on all these mailing lists in the first place? How do I find the messages I actually care about? How do I avoid spending my hard-earned money on cloud storage — especially when I don’t care about most of the email I’m storing? And how do I protect my new email address, so I don’t end up in the same situation? For starters, I still have my old email address, but I’m using it like a kitchen junk drawer; it’s full of stuff I probably won’t ever need but might want to have in a pinch. You never know. I did put some time and effort into reducing the number of messages in my old inbox, but the task was daunting, and I got bored pretty fast. I also created some new filters, set up some auto-delete rules, and unsubscribed from a bunch of mailing lists (although that doesn’t seem to stop them).

I refuse to buy extra storage space, even though I’m constantly hovering on the edge of the free capacity I’ve been allotted somehow. I can’t help but wonder if the advertisers and the email service providers are in cahoots.

For now, I only share my new email address with people I want to hear from and businesses I need to interact with. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping those businesses won’t sell my new address to third parties for marketing purposes, but in some cases that might be unavoidable. Fortunately, my new email provider offers a service that allows me to create randomly generated email addresses I can give out instead of my real email address. This helps protect my real address from becoming public through a data breach or some other targeted attack.

When I visit a new website, I usually enter my old email address. This helps me get a sense of how much junk they’re going to send me. If it isn’t totally overwhelming, and if I really want to do business with them, I might go back and update the account with my new address.

I’m also trying to aggressively manage my new inbox. My goal is to delete or archive messages as soon as I read them. For some reason, this is harder than it should be. For some people, the epitome of email management is inbox zero, meaning every email is dispositioned once it’s been read. Not many of us will reach this level of enlightenment, including me, but for peace of mind, it’s a worthwhile goal.

There are plenty of great tips out there on how to manage your email avalanche, but these are the ones that are working for me, in my personal email inboxes, for now. Don’t even get me started on my work inbox. That’s a whole other ball of spam.

April Godwin is an IT specialist. She lives in Lakebay.