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Do You Flip Out Over Junk Mail?

A couple of weeks ago, Wired editor and The Long Tail author Chris Anderson got so fed up with receiving pitches from clueless (or lazy) publicists that he screeched out in protest, permanently banning said publicists from his in-box and, to the delight of some onlookers, publishing their e-mail addresses on his blog in a spammer-friendly format. Reaction to Anderson’s move was noisy, and mixed: see here and here for samples.

Now comes word that Tim Page, a Pulitzer-winning music writer for the Washington Post, flipped out even more aggressively, albeit with tighter focus. After receiving a press release about former D.C. mayor Marion Barry‘s views on an area hospital, here’s what Page wrote to Barry’s aide:

“Must we hear about it every time this crack addict attempts to rehabilitate himself with some new — and typically half-witted — political grandstanding? I’d be grateful if you would take me off your mailing list. I cannot think of anything the useless Marion Barry could do that would interest me in the slightest, up to and including overdose.”

I am a fan of both Tim Page and Chris Anderson, and I too sometimes feel the urge to vent as they both vented. But, as in many cases in life, venting ends up punishing the venter more than the ventee.

The interesting question to me is this: why is it so easy to throw away a piece of paper junk mail, while junk e-mail so inflames the passions?

My favorite thing about e-mail is its efficiency. I get about 300 e-mails a day, and don’t have much problem isolating the 20 or 30 I care about; it is really easy to get rid of the rest either systematically (between Earthlink and Eudora, I have good spam filters) or just by clicking that wonderful little “Delete” button.

I have a much bigger beef with junk snail mail than I do with junk e-mail: it is far more costly and wasteful. I probably throw away about five pounds of junk snail mail, unopened, every week. Most of it catalogs. I get pretty unhappy when I think about all the resources consumed in designing, producing, and delivering all that mail that goes straight into the trash can.

By comparison, I don’t have many complaints about having to use the virtual trash can on my computer (er, I mean, on my LifeLine).

(Hat tip: Romenesko.)