I have a professional confession to make.

I hate email.

I hate the constant deluge of it; the ambivalence of getting something you don't know how to respond to yet so you just skip; the overwhelming feeling when you see just how much there is left to scroll through just for that day; the frustration of emails where you can't just unsubscribe but must sign in to manage notifications, etc.

It used to take me upwards of 45 minutes to an hour just to process one day's worth of email. In fact, it felt like an uphill battle so demoralizing that I simply didn't do it half the time.

Needless to say, this--simply opting out of dealing with any email ever--wasn't a pattern fit for a responsible adult. So last week, I sat down with a friend for a Google calendar event cheerfully entitled, "Take Back Our Inboxes."

We were ready.

We were determined.

My personal plan was to doggedly face the seemingly unending number of emails from lists to which I barely recall subscribing. The prospect of slogging through them all, hunting for the SafeUnsubscribe button, wasn't in the least appealing, but I was committed to persevering.

My friend had a different plan, which proved substantially faster and more effective: Unroll.Me.

Unroll.Me is a simple, streamlined service that helps you quickly and comprehensively opt out of email subscriptions, and also organizes the ones you want to keep into a daily digest.

Thus, instead of you hunting through your inbox, Unroll.Me presents you with a comprehensive list of all the things to which you're subscribed, and you go down the line deciding whether to "unsubscribe, roll up, or keep in inbox." If you use their app, it takes you through each subscription in a Tinder-like progression--you swipe left to unsubscribe, up to "roll up" (get it in a digest form), and right to keep it in your inbox.

The digest part is particularly helpful, such that instead of getting five separate emails from your yoga studio, bank, alumni association, neighborhood watch group, and doggie daycare place, you get just one, with all of them (a "rollup").

I was, by the way, validated in my suspicion that my inbox was, in fact worse than most: The average Unroll.Me user has ~62 subscriptions upon signup.

I had 238.

I was ruthless that fateful day. I checked "unsubscribe" on at least 95% of the subscriptions, rolled up a select few I still wanted to see but didn't want to take up space, and only left two to stay as they had, in my inbox. Most importantly, I did it all in one fell swoop--no scrolling through endless pages of emails, hunting for the next subscription.

To be honest, I wasn't really sure it was going to work. But after a full week of test-driving my new inbox, I can honestly say my life is a little bit different now. A little smoother. A little quieter.

For example, where it used to take me 45-60 minutes (at least) to deal with one day's worth of emails, I just processed all my emails for the day and timed myself: it took 6:57.

Unroll.me, like many modern tech companies, is not without its demons. It was the subject of intense controversy when people became aware that the way the service makes its money is by selling (anonymized) data from its users. Specifically, Unroll.me had sold anonymized data about Lyft to Uber, and The Internet was not pleased.

Unroll.Me's CEO issued an apology, while the company pointed out in a separate tweet that the amount of data the service has on an individual pales in comparison to that of Facebook and Google.

It's true that many such free services engage in the practice of selling anonymized data to third parties. This means you must decide for your what your comfort level is when it comes to who knows what about you (even if that data is anonymous and aggregated).

After doing my own due diligence, I decided to continue with it.

I'm alternately pleased and horrified to admit that my inbox hasn't been this squeaky clean since around 2003.

Published on: Nov 29, 2017