Ah, marketing emails. The infestation of the modern age. Always wriggling their way in despite our efforts to keep them out, to be swatted at and exterminated while they determinedly multiply, the way our ancestors did with mice. Except we still have mice as well, so that’s not fair.
McKinsey estimates that high-skilled knowledge workers spend 28 per cent of their week dealing with emails. And that’s just work emails, no mention of the high skills and knowledge it takes for me to glance at my phone and decide I’m not that fussed about the latest offers from Robert Dyas, thanks.
Being something of an indiscriminate signer-upper (‘You’ll give me a free biscuit in exchange for all my details? BUT OF COURSE!’), for the past few years my inbox has been overrun with the buggers. I don’t use labels, folders or filters in my email client, because I’m lazy and would rather be doing nice things, and I don’t read 90 per cent of them either – because I’m lazy and would rather be doing nice things.
It’s odd, then, that it took me this long to get round to signing up to Unroll.me, the hit inbox management service that unsubscribes you from unwanted correspondence and sends you one, palatable daily round-up of your chosen emails instead. ‘That sounds nice,’ I would think. ‘But I am far too busy ignoring all these emails to have time to do anything about them.’
On some level I probably liked pretending I was madly busy because my phone was always blipping away. Maybe it made me feel loved. I was signed up to Barak Obama’s pre-election mailing list for a year despite not actually being able to vote in the USA, just because I liked looking down to see ‘Hey Lauren, it’s Michelle’ or ‘Hey Lauren, it’s Beyonce’ smiling up at me from my inbox.
But it was when I started developing email-based physical tics, clicking automatically on my Outlook every 90 seconds and trying to scroll up and down on a stapler because I’d left my phone at home, that I realised I might benefit from an inbox detox. I was missing good stuff too, like Popbitch and Emerald Street brunch deals, because they were buried among all the other bumf.
So in came Unroll.me, and within 10 minutes I was free from every Tom, Dick and Harry.com who had ever made unwanted advances on my email. BOOM. That easy.
But while Unroll.me itself is quick to use, reconditioning your behaviour takes a bit longer. I spent several days all twitchy, with one eye on my inactive phone, feeling inwardly sad that my good friends at Anthropologie and Freecycle and Transport for London hadn’t checked in to see how I was doing.
After the first few days of eerie quiet, I realised my life has been changed. A bit. I am slightly calmer, a teeny bit less glued to my phone and a smidge less likely to get carpal tunnel from mindless swiping and scrolling.
What’s more, and this might be good news for the brands and marketers despairing at their plummeting open-rates, I actually engage more with the emails I receive via my daily Rollup. Having sifted the wheat from the chaff, I’ve got more time and energy to read the wheat and appreciate the role a nicely-crafted, well-targeted mailout can still play in my life.
There are downsides, though. Unroll.me requires you to share them on Facebook if you want to unsubscribe from more than five senders – which isn’t ideal if you’re also attempting a social media detox (or just don’t like being that person on your news feed). And while it currently can’t access your login details for a Gmail or Outlook account (it uses OAuth authentication service instead), it can for Yahoo, AOL or iCloud users.
Of course there’s also the chance you might miss something important, because it’s automatically been bundled into a Rollup, as well as the fact that while we’re relying on a digital service to manage our communication overload, we’re not actually addressing the behaviour behind it.
Maybe I don’t need summer sales, brunch deals or Beyonce in my inbox AT ALL, and it’s my FOMO that needs reprogramming next. But for now, I’ll settle for never hearing from Robert Dyas again.
By Lauren Bravo | August 5th, 2014