Quietly Blocking Your Friends

Have you ever stuck any of your friends in the spam filter? Maybe “acquaintances” is a better term – in some cases people I know have added me to their mailing lists without asking, and just started spamming away. Of course, people who have enough of a clue to be courteous will give you an opt-out link on the email, or at least they’ll ask you to let them know if you don’t want to receive the missives. And then you have everyone else, and best of all, they don’t know who they are.

At first, upon receiving 10-year-old jokelists or unwanted commercial emails from people I knew, I would politely explain that I’d be glad to get jokes they’d written or personal messages, but not impersonal stuff that doesn’t interest me. Predictably, this caused offense no matter how I worded it. In our peculiar online world, if I tell someone that I don’t want to see an old jokelist, that shows that I hate the sender, or that I’m just being a jerk. After all, as I’m helpfully reminded by bumper stickers, mean people suck!

So rather than wondering how to carefully word something to avoid offense, I decided to simply chuck them into the spam filter, and none would be the wiser. The chicken’s way out, but very fast and effective; no thoughtful explanatory email needed, and the wheels of sociability keep turning undisturbed.

Nowadays, with other fun distractions like Facebook and Twitter, one has more decisions to make like this. Do I “friend” this guy? Do I know him somehow? Do they see it if I say no? Will they be offended? Am I less of a loser if I have 1000 completely anonymous “fans”? Do I really want to know every single activity in someone’s entire day? Is it interesting to see a long post about how someone has just taken out the garbage and their cat threw up? And since when did “friend” become a verb?

And now these services often have stealthy ways of handling this, too. So sometimes I’ll quietly block them without explicitly rejecting them, or other times I just turn them down flat. I don’t send out a lot of stuff, as I try to keep it interesting, but I’m sure I’ve been stuck into a spam filter or two. Or four. Even I will forward a joke once in awhile, so that means that I’m a dope, too. Does any of this this sound familiar? What do you do when you get an unsolicited and unwanted request or email? I think it’s funny that probably millions of people have no idea that they’ve quietly been tossed in the digital rubbish bin, but blithely continue to forward that same stale joke or unfounded rumor to everyone in their list.

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