Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Please Stop Emailing

We have already agreed that, in this day and age, phone calls are unacceptable and leaving voicemail is as barbarous as it is pointless. But, contrary to opinion expressed elsewhere in this space, email is just as bad! You¹ need to stop emailing me immediately.

Actually, when I say "just as bad" I really mean "much worse." You know you sent me an email. I know you sent me an email. Everybody knows that people pretty much just spend their days obsessively refreshing their inboxes now. There's no way I didn't see your email. Even if I didn't open it, in hopes that it would eventually migrate to the next page and I could once again go about my life unburdened by the guilt of not having read or responded, I always know it's there, lurking below the floorboards, pointing at me with its long, bony finger and making terrible judgments about my level of courtesy. Plus I still see it in the "unread" count. I can't delete it altogether, either, because then it will just haunt me. What if it was something important? What kind of person am I who would delete your valuable missive unread? And then your follow-up emails? I am embarrassed to look at my computer screen. It shakes its head at me and mocks my manners when it is out drinking with the other computer screens after work. "He should be ashamed," it hisses with unconcealed disdain.

There are no good excuses for avoiding emails, either. When someone says, "Oh, I never answer my phone," you nod admiringly at that person's forward-thinking, tech-savvy ways. "This person is so modern that they have completely dispensed with a technology that still ties much of humanity together," you think. But "I never read my email"? An obvious lie. "Overzealous spam filter"? Even more insulting. Telling someone that their note must have gone to spam is essentially telling them that you do not respect them enough to come up with even a barely plausible excuse, like your hard drive got totally fried or you suddenly developed temporary night blindness that also afflicts you during the day. It's just bad form.

But still, they come. Each day brings an ever-increasing pile, adding to the guilt and desperation. The crushing sense of pervasive dread I feel each time I refresh my inbox (which, as discussed, I pretty much do all the time) is the stuff of Russian fiction. Your emails are a sack of adorable babies floating down the river, crying out for salvation. I cannot save all the babies! How can I save all the babies? WHY ARE YOU PUTTING THIS MUCH PRESSURE ON ME?

I'll tell you what: the next time you desperately need to contact me, stand about a hundred feet away and yell it really loudly. Or, even better, try sending me a message with your mind. I will almost certainly receive that, unless my telepathy is on the fritz that day, which has been happening more and more frequently. Maybe, as a last resort, try calling me? I mean, yeah, I never answer my phone, but who knows, I might be just about to order a pizza or something. Stranger things have happened. Plus, I order a lot of pizzas. So your odds are pretty good there. Anyway, thanks.

¹Not you, obviously. Everyone else.

50 Comments / Post A Comment

keisertroll (#1,117)

And thus my love letters disguised as penis enhancement literature go unread.

Might want to check your fax machine in, say, 5-7 minutes.

deepomega (#1,720)

@Clarence Rosario Be sure to hook up your modem.

City_Dater (#2,500)

What about the people who CALL when they don't receive an immediate response to an email? Is there a support group for them, or a nearby cliff they can be herded over?

gumplr (#66)

similarly, the people who follow up a voicemail with a "did you get my voicemail?" text

djfreshie (#875)


There is one reason and one reason alone to follow up on an email quick, and it is if I owe you money.

There's a special ring of hell for pretty much anyone that can't immediately leave a thing alone. Any old thing. You ALREADY SENT IT NOW STOP AND DO SOMETHING ELSE WHILE YOU WAIT. The worst is the Call-then-voicemail-then-immediate-re-call.

Br. Seamus (#217)

@City_Dater I prefer to think of them as "clients" and wish them no ill until bills go unpaid.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@City_Dater- sending a "read receipt requested" is another appalling affront.

shaunr (#726)

What's The Awl's postal address?

keisertroll (#1,117)

Mail All Complaints To:

Tulsa, OK 74101

MollyBloomberg (#1,169)

@keisertroll I live in Tulsa. Blowjob Plaza was renamed. The mayor felt it was too Clinton-ny. It's now Fingerbang Towers.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

I'm more of a telex man.

Matt H (#45)


I hear you.

hman (#53)

So what did you do yesterday?

deepomega (#1,720)

I am the last living person under the age of 30 who genuinely enjoys phone calls. Perhaps this is a gypsy curse, flung upon me after I made fun of that elderly roma woman on a pay phone?

garge (#736)

Was she using the payphone, or were you taking to someone on a payphone while making fun of her? This affects the nature of the curse, I think.

deepomega (#1,720)

@garge I was crank calling her from a pay phone, actually. "Is your brightly-painted wagon running?"


Bittersweet (#765)

@deepo: There are still pay phones? Really?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

This is almost certainly directed at me. For what it's worth, Balk, you are a prompt replier. WHICH MAKES IT THAT MUCH MORE TEMPTING.

Nick Douglas (#7,095)

Still not okay: Ignoring texts.

@Nick Douglas Ignoring Gchat messages is the new ignoring texts.

@Nick Douglas And yes, I MEAN YOURS.

Matt (#26)

@Choire Sicha Ignoring the teletype is still honest.

Matt (#26)


Please sign for the fruit basket.

Cobalt (#7,571)

I prefer that when we discuss our dinner plans for the weekend, that it's through lengthy, annoying, wall posts on Facebook for everyone to know about because we're so, like, super important and stuff. Don't bother texting me either because you know I hate the phone.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Seriously though, did you get that thing about the geese?

garge (#736)

"I'm sorry, your emails must have started getting caught in my spam filter after I blocked you on Gchat"

@garge But… but I don't have a Gchat?

garge (#736)

Ugh, Stalin, I am still trying to get a hold of a camera phone, but I PROMISE, it will be worth your while in reparations alone.

@garge Are you, like, Amish or something?

El Matardillo (#586)

If I need to contact you, I'll leave a message for you on Gawker.

Matt (#26)

@El Matardillo If that doesn't work, you could always try him at at balk@radarmag.com.

This comment brought to you by secret Lenten appeal.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Fine, then. I meant every fucking word of it, too.

Nicholas Jahr (#5,267)

"Plus I still see it in the "unread" count."

You know Gmail — it looks like you're using Gmail — has a lab that'll turn that off? 'Hide Unread Counts'.

Sleep the sleep of the just tonight.

This certainly explains the absence of the newsletter, then?

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Bulletin boards.

and we should all email alex now, just to say i love you.

ejcsanfran (#489)


scroll_lock (#4,122)

I currently have 490 unread emails in my inbox.

hockeymom (#143)

@scroll_lock You beat me. I've been feeling guilty about 281. Should I be concerned that there are 11,240 total messages? This is a serious question. Will my computer blow up soon? I keep trying to delete them, but it is overwhelming. What if I need the one I delete?

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@hockeymom- I'd have to schedule a week off to get all my files purged and organized. BTW, "What if I need the one I delete?" is classic email-hoarderese. Let me get you something cool for your head.

limeonaire (#1,011)

@scroll_lock 431!

beatrixkiddo1 (#2,988)

Fine, but this still doesn't explain why you've been ignoring my semaphore messages.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Dear Mr. Alex Balk:

I have given this post a lot of thought, after my upheaval expressed supra (that means, Up Yours). Naturally, I'm hurt, but I also realize that just because you didn't answer those 98 e-mails…all right…99. .it was just because you couldn't bring the moral weight and intellectual effort to bear to dignify what were probably the most transcendent 998 (or 999) words I've ever written.

That's water under the bridge. Which is fine for you. Because I'm in the water with it.

So as I keep giving it even more thoughts, and because you asked, in your roundabout, evasive, and really quite offensively glib manner, to not hear about my feelings and thoughts and important talking points in a 99th (or 100th) e-mail, I will tell you here, instead. Because you at least read your comments. Right?


Alex: Yes, I called you Alex. You're no longer a Balk to me. Alex? I don't think you were sincere when you answered my 45th (or 46th) e-mail. I don't think you really meant it when you invited me to "Drop dead."

And that smarts most of all.

Yours (I'm lying. I'm not yours),


RocketSurgeon (#1,632)

I don't have any unread emails in any of my inboxes. Not being important has its benefits.

dvahinarizona (#9,151)

i'm good on the email front. it's those damn rss feeds i've (voluntarily) signed up for. my browser alerts always make me feel so guilty – especially when i know all dem lil bitches are just piling up…

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