An Open Letter to Online Political Activists

I’ve noticed something lately. My inbox. It’s full of crap.

I don’t mean spam. It’s also full of spam, but beyond the spam, it’s still full of crap. Issues. Political rally cries. Chicken Littles.

It doesn’t matter where you fall on the political spectrum. You’re probably getting the same whether you’re on the left, the right, or in the middle.

My inbox suggests I’m somewhere between the middle and the left. I get a lot of mail from various levels of the Democratic Party, candidates’ campaign committees, and third parties shouting into the darkness about circumcision, gun control, food additives, dead bees, and chemical fertilizer.

The thing is, if you pick any one of these issues and talked to me about it, I am quite likely in line with their message. I do think we need to reform U.S. gun laws in some way. I do think we need to figure out how to save the bees (and, by extension, our food crops). I do think circumcision is pointless, and that we put a lot of dangerous garbage into our food supply, and that various factions of the political right are becoming dangerous.

But.

It’s very hard to give a shit anymore. Should I take the time to read the message and “Sign the Petition!”, or should I just hit Delete? Multiply this question by fifty or so, every day.

For a while, the Internet increased people’s political engagement. It became a method to draw in the apathetic populace, especially the younger generation, and make them care about issues again. Get involved, petition, and vote.

But, at least for me, the sheer volume has become drudgery. Every day I almost unsubscribe from various lists. I feel guilty, as though this would be selfish.

In closing, I would like to address everybody who runs an advocacy campaign on the Internet and say this: if you are tempted to pen a mass email to your audience, and its only message is “all I wanted to say is: thank you!” – close your email program and go outside for a while. The rest of us will thank you. We have enough of your cohorts’ correspondence to slog through already.

Signed, Everybody