I’m putting this post in “fellowship” because it’s really a relationship problem, not a technology problem. It’s just a relationship problem with a technological solution.
Everyone has an Aunt Mildred. You love her, but you regretted giving her your email address after about a week (and 500 email forwards). Or maybe your mom or dad passed along your email address on your behalf, and now she’s inundating your inbox with waaaaaayyyyyyyy more than your personal Recommended Daily Allowance of really adorable cat pictures.
Aunt Mildred has also never heard of Snopes.com. She believes the contents of every email that hits her inbox implicitly, and feels duty-bound to tell you that Bill Gates is going to pay you to forward an email to your entire address book.
You’ve considered just marking her email address as “Spam,” haven’t you? Admit it. The idea of just sending all her emails directly to your junk folder, do not pass “Go,” do not collect any of Bill Gate’s mythical money, is extremely tempting. But I’m not going to recommend that you do that.
For one thing, no matter how email-etiquette clueless a person is, they’re still a person. In this case, a person you have a real relationship with. Real relationships > inbox zero victory. And also, I’m all about reconciliation and healing relationships. Marking your relatives as spammers is passive aggressive as heck, people. Not to mention kind of lazy.
On a more practical front, you shouldn’t do that because Aunt Mildred could, someday, actually send you some really important information by email. In the event that on her deathbed, she decides to send you the top-secret family recipe for bourbon balls she’s been hording all these years, you can’t risk that information getting shuttled off to the junk mail folder.
Today, as my good deed of the week, I’m going to tell you how to handle Aunt Mildred. Or at least, how to handle her emails. You’re on your own when it comes to her ruthless Phase 10 dominance and her tendency to point out you’ve gained ten pounds since last Christmas.
If you use Gmail:
- Next to the search box, you’ll see two buttons: “Search Mail” and “Search the Web.” Just right of that, you’ll see two smallish links. One of these is “Create a Filter.” Click it.
- In the “From” field, enter Aunt Mildred’s email address. In the “Subject” field, enter “Fwd.”
- Click the “Next Step” button. Check the box next to “Skip the inbox (Archive it).”
- Click “Create Filter” after checking the box to apply the filter to all the emails Step 3 found.
There you go! Technically, you could have selected “Delete it” in Step 3, but since Gmail gives you basically limitless archives, there’s no reason to not to archive it, in the unlikely event something important actually comes to you as an email forward.
Forwards will go to the Archive; the date, time and location of your next family reunion will make it safely to your inbox.
If you use Outlook, (and may God have mercy on your soul if Aunt Mildred got your work email) you’ll have to create a Rule, instead of a Filter.
You’ll find a wizard for setting up the Rule under your Tools menu. It’s pretty simple. As with the Gmail method, you’ll set the From: field to Aunt Mildred’s address and the Subject: field to “Fwd.” In the case of Outlook, I’d go ahead and send the messages to the Recycle Bin.
This has been your weekly Public Service Announcement from your friendly neighborhood Internet Bard. Got a relationship+technology problem you’d like me to tackle here? Wondering what the social ramifications of unfriending that old high school pal on Facebook are? Don’t know when to @reply and when to direct message someone on Twitter (or how to do those things)? Not sure when it’s appropriate to change your relationship status to “Single”? (Hint: not before the other person involved knows.) Drop it in the comments.
As long as it’s related to personal relationships, feel free to consider me your social media Dear Abby.