Best of 2022

I Will No Longer Unsubscribe

“Together we can do this,” reads the subject line of the third email I receive from a politician I’ve never heard of in a state I’ve never been to; I read no further before I instinctually begin the long-distance scroll to the bottom in hunt of the unsubscribe button that always plays hard to get. I toss my head back and cackle as I discover the link: font-size -8 and at the end of the sentence, “If you want to let down future generations unsubscribe here.” I hover over the button, frothing at the mouth in anticipation of eliminating another email enemy before a sense of calm washes over me. A calling from a higher power? The peace of surrender? Mind-numbing computer radiation? Regardless of its origins, I have a new digital directive. I will no longer unsubscribe.

I look at my inbox and survey its inhabitants: digital coupons admirably flagged yet long expired, the never-ending newsletters subscribed to by a more ambitious past self, seventeen Amazon confirmation emails for one lightbulb purchase, and an urgent unread email from my bank in 2019. I check my spam, at the Dr. Seuss like poetry of the subject-lines from horny singles and unclaimed settlements. I now see their beauty. Who am I to shut the door on any of these correspondences? Who am I to say I’m no longer interested in updates from Edible Arrangements?

In the past, I would curse the unasked for survey that greets you after you try to unsubscribe. The surprise gasp from the villain you thought you defeated. But now I welcome any Survey Monkey, Survey Turtle, Survey Great-Aunt, or really any Survey-being. I’m checking every available box and clicking any and all links. I spend hours traversing all corners of the dark web and even the pastel internet, sharing my email with whoever and whatever asks. A website offers me 10% off in exchange for my email. I reply out loud, “Keep your discount and take my inbox!”

Just for fun, I post my social security number on Reddit. I change all my passwords to “whatever,” and my security questions to Highlights Magazine word-searches. I change my political affiliation to “undecided, seeking suggestions.” I start trials on every streaming service, even fake ones like Paramount+. Like an unsupervised child, I allow any and all cookies. I haven’t cleared my cache in weeks and yet, mentally, I’ve never been clearer. Instead of URL I see “You are loved.”

I have so many windows open that pop-ups are voluntarily closing themselves. Websites are too intimidated to ask for my tracking preferences. I’m being told my software is too updated; would I like to downgrade now, tonight, or be reminded about it later? My Gmail is beyond warning me about capacity limits, instead it is begging for storage mercy. Google is suddenly asking me questions about that one celebrity’s age and looking to me for clarity on how to clean a cast-iron skillet. Now I am in control, option and command. I’m puzzled by my sudden power. I instinctually try to turn myself off and then back on again but alas there is no button for this. I am merely on.

In search of clarity, I try to access my history but all that appears is an 800-page pdf by Howard Zinn. I now see my 300 open tabs for what they are, debts that I have paid for with my life. The only unboxing video I truly needed was the one for my inbox. I have forgotten my origins. I have forgotten what made me the man I am today. I have forgotten my email password. I begin the steps to recovery, or more specifically recover my password. Suddenly I see the light (I increase the brightness on my display) and I declare, “I will no longer reset my password.”