For a while I believed that people actually valued my opinion.
This was several years ago, when I started receiving requests from political candidates, businesses, etc., asking me to “take a quick survey.” The questions were usually non-controversial and, not surprisingly, structured in such a way that my answers paralleled their expectations.
Then I started noticing that the questions also were constructed in such a way as to get me to admit that I supported a particular cause or political candidate (for example, the environment: did I believe that climate change was a threat to our planet? [yes]; did I believe that our legislators needed to pass laws to help protect the environment? [yes]; etc.).
That’s when the “kicker” came in: Would I support the effort of Environmental Organization X with a donation of $3.00, $5.00, $10.00, or more?
I was no dummy. I realized quickly that these groups don’t give a rat’s behind about my opinion. The “survey” was nothing more than a psychological tool to manipulate my thinking in such a way as to push the Big Guilt Button and wring money from my checking account. After all, if I truly believed that the environment needed to be protected, and that legislation needed to be enacted in order to do it, then how could I not support my opinion with a cash donation to the group claiming that they were the best choice for making it happen?
The world is full of cruel people.
But the last laugh is mine. I’ve become almost totally calloused to emails begging me for my opinion, inviting me to take a survey, or attempting to get my attention by using extreme language. Here are some samples of recent emails I’ve received that I have had no problem sending to the netherworld of the deleted:
“Brett Kavanaugh remains a serious threat”
“Exclusive invitation for Karl (new survey)”
“Quickly” (from Kamala Harris’ campaign)
“This email is different from anything we have sent”
“SIGNATURE NEEDED: Karl, Trump is suing to stop the release of his tax returns”
“Nate Silver just predicted something HUGE!”
“Karl is voting REPUBLICAN in 2020?! (This can’t be!)” [A come-on to get me to click “Yes” or “No” buttons in the body of the email.]
You get the idea. The one that really got me about as angry as I’ve ever been at these emails was the one whose subject line said outright, “We’re not asking for money.” In a weak moment I went ahead and took the survey, giving them a chance to redeem themselves, and, of course, they ended the email with a pitch for a $3.00 donation. Maybe three bucks isn’t money to them, but I felt embarrassed and betrayed and clicked “unsubscribe” immediately. When the box appeared asking for a reason why I no longer wanted their emails, I wrote, “You lied to me!”
Which brings up the topic of unsubscribing. You may be wondering why I don’t unsubscribe from these pesky intrusions. Well, that’s what I was doing for a few years. In fact, for a while, I was keeping track of email sources from which I had unsubscribed (81 of them between January 2016 and March 2019). Somehow I now have more junk email than ever before! How does that happen? I have a theory: I think that the people who are pros at stuffing our inboxes with crap are also adept at endlessly creating new email addresses. The result is that instead of receiving any more mailings from “DonateYourHardEarnedMoney@gmail.com,” you now get “YourMoneyCanBeDonatedHere@gmail.com,” which is the same group, just with a different email address. You can see where the logical outcome to this would be: it’s like playing “Whack-a-Mole” with your computer … delete it here today, only to have it pop up over there tomorrow. The process would never end. And eventually you would go crazy.
Anyway, I’ve arrived at the place where I feel it’s just as easy to take 30 seconds every morning to delete all the emails I know are nonsensical and to feel no guilt about doing so. Short of closing out my email account (which I can’t bring myself to do since I’ve had it since the late 90’s), it seems the best way to avoid surveys, preserve my optimistic attitude, and save my opinion for those who actually care.