What I Learned Cleaning Out My SPAM Folder

I get lots of SPAM.
You know, those unwanted, unsolicited, sometimes infected emails that come to us on a daily basis.

Fortunately, I have several programs installed that filter for pre-determined subjects, keywords or phrases. (Not just profanity, but also words that identifies the message as bulk sales. Some software allows users to add their own offensive words.) In addition, the programs scan for suspicious attachments, spyware, malicious code or questionable URLs. This is all done before I open the mail. The Protection Software will mark the messages, isolate them, and “disarm” them, removing harmful content. That way, I’m protected from something that could potentially infect my entire system. Repeat offenders can be put on a “Sender Blacklist,” blocking all future correspondence.

A few days ago, I hit SEND/RECEIVE, and tons of emails started streaming in. They were from an account I’d closed years ago. By the end of the day, I’d received more than 500 junk messages to that once inactive address.

I figured it was time to clean and archive my Outlook files, so I opened the Junk Mail folder. In addition to the 500+ emails that'd just arrived, there were hundreds of captured messages. For my amusement, I scanned the Subject Lines, and compiled a quick list of conclusions:

  • I’m fat, but I can slim down quickly—as much as two dress sizes in a month—using any one of a myriad of methods, everything from medication to diet to bariatric surgery.
  • Lots of people are looking for me! Several are trying to connect with me on LinkedIn, and apparently, there are “MILFs” who want to “hook up” with me.
  • If I need money, aside from the kind, former Ambassador from Nigeria who wants to deposit large sums into my bank account, I qualify for credit cards, home loans, personal lines of credit, and the government wants to give me a small business loan.
  • I should sue for a variety injustices, particularly damage to my lungs and my vagina.
  • Clairvoyants and Psychics have important messages for me. (You'd think they know I delete their mail. <shrug>)
  • Numerous agencies have found jobs for me.
  • My dating life could improve by using Match.com, e-Harmony, Christian Mingle, or a site for Jewish men seeking Jewish women. (Oy, vey!) There are also many websites I can join, just for hot sex, or I could employ Apps to locate “horny girls” in my area. (However, I need to purchase chemical enhancements from online pharmacies in order to "please the ladies" with lasting stamina and virility.) Or, I could skip dating altogether, because there are sweet Russian women who find me attractive, and want to be my wife.
  • My subscription to the New York Times and the Washington Post has expired. So has the warranty on my car and my home.
  • I’ve won a free Disney vacation, and a Caribbean cruise, and a trip to Las Vegas.
  • There’s no shortage of stuff I can get cheaper online: walk-in tub, cell phone, a new SUV, life (and burial) insurance, an oil change, ink cartridges, a timeshare...and hair implants.

  • My payment to Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s has been declined, so I need to reply with my account information to resolve the past due amount. Amazon (also Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America) has lost my account information, so I need to send it to them.
  • I have many options for Rehab.
  • With the right supplement, I can strengthen my nails, stop the ringing in my ears, control my bladder, lose weight, build muscle, sleep better, increase my penis size, prolong my erection, cure diabetes and protect my prostate. (Oops, too late on that one!)
  • I can get a Bachelor’s, Master’s or a PhD in any discipline, without ever going to class. (All that time and money I wasted getting my degrees!)

Some would say, “It’s just SPAM. Delete it, and move on.” But as I cleaned out the Junk Mail folder, it occurred to me there are lessons to learn here. (‘Cause for an old preacher, every story has a lesson!)

1. SPAM Protections would be helpful in real life.
It’s not just my “virtual” (electronic) communications that should be submitted to a Virus/Spam Filter, and relegated to a Junk Folder. In my day-to-day life there are incoming messages with offensive, hurtful words/phrases, or containing toxic content that can infect my soul, distort my self-image, contaminate my mind, poison my well being and damage my spiritual well being.

Not every message I receive needs to be opened and read.
Not every Sender needs access to my Inbox.
It's okay to "blacklist" some people from future input into my life!

2. I am not my SPAM!
Most of the garbage that ends up in my Junk Mail Folder is from people who've never met me. It’s not that all of their assumptions are wrong about me, (Hey, I am fat!) but they are assumptions, sent with little or no true knowledge about who I really am.

Also in the folder are messages sent to a past “me," also not an accurate or adequate reflection of who I am...now. (Are you the same person you were 20, 30 or 40 years ago?)

EXAMPLE: When I joined Facebook, people I’d not heard from in decades began to send Friend Requests. Many were members of the church I'd pastored in the 80s, before I came out. That's the "me" they knew, and that's the person they wanted to be friends with...and some were belligerent that I must be that "me" again. It made for some extremely hurtful exchanges, caused me intense stress, and created near-constant drama on my Facebook page. Then, I imposed some real-life "Junk Mail/SPAM" rules for the Senders I listened to and for the messages I chose to receive.

In my daily interaction, people make statements, draw conclusions, categorize or summarize me based on previous association, peripheral familiarity, incomplete or inaccurate data, personal prejudices, stereotypical assessments, or out-of-date information. (e.g., those who learn I'm gay and Christian like to send me messages with sweeping characterizations that clearly show they don't know me!)

The reality is, not everything that people say about me, or to me is correct. I am not required to listen or agree. I'm certainly not required to defend myself. It can be in my best interest to have a filter that scrutinizes, isolates and rejects these messages. (And quite possibly, the people who send them.)

3. Occasionally, the SPAM filter is wrong!
Sometimes, messages end up in the Junk Folder in error, because the Sender used keywords normally flagged for isolation. That’s why I always check before a mass delete.

Similarly, there are conversations in my life I might allow from some people. They get to examine my faith, question my actions/behavior, challenge my opinions, point out inconsistencies in my thinking, disagree with my beliefs, or call me on my BS. They get to use words and phrases I would reject from acquaintances and strangers. They give me a different...and needed...perspective. They have insights and information I need and welcome. They can often see my blindspots, and give correction when I'm out of line. And even though my ego/pride might react, and their input could trigger my defenses, that doesn’t mean I should ignore or reject their message, and I definitely wouldn't block the sender.

But few have EARNED the privilege of this role in my life. This very select group of folks have proven they love and accept me. I know they want what's best for me.
The rest? They are consigned to Junk Mail.

Who knew that cleaning out my SPAM Folder could teach me important lessons, and lead to a (lengthy) blog entry?

DISCLAIMER: For the tech-savvy reading this, I was attempting a simplistic explanation of how Virus and SPAM software operates, so please resist the impulse to correct me with a detailed clarification of the complex matrix involved in this process.



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