Email Lists Are Eating Your Brain


Or at least, your attention.

From a quick glance at my inbox, the last 30 emails I’ve received include messages from:

  • DSW
  • Target
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • DSW (again)
  • Bed Bath & Beyond (AGAIN)
  • Glossier
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Blue Q
  • Kate Spade

Why? What value are these emails adding to anyone’s life?

There is a really interesting podcast about the commodity of attention and how companies are encroaching on our mental spaces for profit. When we see these emails every day (sometimes multiple times a day) we are being bombarded by messages designed to make us consume more. They want us to experience FOMO. To buy something we don’t need.

I touched on this a bit in my article about fast fashion, but companies are manipulating our desires to increase our consumption. And why shouldn’t they? They exist to make money and by subscribing to these emails you are inviting them into your headspace to sell you things. Those crazy sales still exist without the announcements in your inbox. Those coupons aren’t worth it if they are making you spend money you didn’t intend to (and btw those bed bath & beyond coupons never expire so you probably have a million already in your inbox).

A “great deal” isn’t great if it makes you spend money you don’t have. And while treating yourself is wonderful, these companies want to egg on that mentality so you feel less guilty about forking over your whole paycheck. They do it in ways that feel authentic, so when your favorite YouTuber recommends a beauty product on Instagram it feels like an endorsement you can trust, but it’s all advertising in the end.

It’s time to take back some of our attention. Your inbox is the perfect place to start, as it’s one of the few online spaces left you have complete control over. Go through and unsubscribe from anything that is trying to sell to you. Hopefully, you’ll get a decluttered inbox, peace of mind, and a fatter wallet (fingers crossed).

Really, you don’t need to be told what to buy. You never did.

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