Occasionally, when the news feeds online drive me to despair and there is nothing printable I can write or say, when my intellectual and emotional bandwidth has been totally used up such that I cannot even escape into a good novel or a colorful tome on what’s “in” in fashion this fall, I take a look at my Junk mailbox. I’m not proud of this. It’s a step beyond reading the Comments online following an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post or the New York Times, (“Who arethese people?!!); actually it’s a descent into a different kind of hell. While the Comments reveal something about the thoughts and minds (some of them twisted) of the contributors and how much time they have to waste with their venom and/or vapidness, the Junk mail reveals what some intrepid (and possibly equally warped) algorithms think of me.
I changed out my email server 10 or 15 years ago because I couldn’t get sbcglobal.net to stop sending me all sorts of junk about Viagra and Cialis and penis-enhancers. That worked. Our Google platform seems far more discerning and it fairly accurately filters out a lot of the junk which has, until just recently, seemed chiefly concerned with getting me to pay some account I don’t have. Delete. Delete. But now — just this summer — my Junk Inbox is flooded with pitches for brain stimulators, and mind-enhancers, medications and treatments that will make me, ah, more brilliant, I guess. How curious! What causes this? Have the algorithms zeroed in on my age? On the drivel I write in emails? Have they overlooked my book club notices and the arrangements for my bridge games? Do they not consider my news sources, the pleas for money from Democratic causes, the missives from LitHub, the Atlanticand the Paris Review? Are they not privy to the photos of me hiking and biking — strenuously — this summer? Seriously. What is it that makes some thing or somebody think I need brain food? Should I feel insulted?
Actually, I’m thinking the proper response is still Delete. Delete. Command ALL, Delete. After all, I was never a candidate for Viagra either. My anonymity must be fairly secure.